Big Ten rankings: No. 22, Mike Taylor

The preseason top-25 player rankings wind their way through the month of August. As a reminder, these are based on both past performance and potential for the 2012 season.

Our next player certainly checked the production box in 2011, and he looks to build on it this coming season.

No. 22: Mike Taylor, LB, Wisconsin, Sr., 6-foot-2, 222 pounds

2011 postseason rank: No. 24

2011 numbers: Led Big Ten with 150 tackles, including nine tackles for loss and two sacks. Recorded two interceptions, three forced fumbles, two fumbles recovered, three pass breakups and two quarterback hurries.

Why he's here: Taylor went from being an average linebacker to among the Big Ten's best at the position in 2011. He led the league in tackles, highlighted by a career-high 22 stops against Ohio State, the most for a Badgers player since 1998. Taylor twice earned Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week honors and was a first-team All-Big Ten selection by the media (second team All-Big Ten from the coaches). He had nine or more tackles in 10 games.

Taylor and Chris Borland form arguably the league's top linebacker tandem and will start alongside one another for the second consecutive season. A sound tackler who is always around the ball and can make plays in the backfield, Taylor is a crucial piece to a Badgers defense that finished 15th nationally in yards allowed (316.4 per game) and 13th in points allowed (19 per game) in 2011.

The countdown

No. 25: Taylor Martinez, QB, Nebraska

No. 24: MarQueis Gray, QB, Minnesota

No. 23: Ricardo Allen, CB, Purdue