Big Ten rankings: No. 17, Le'Veon Bell

Our countdown of the Top 25 players in the Big Ten for 2012 is rumblin', bumblin', stumblin' toward the top spot.

As a reminder, we're considering past performance and 2012 potential in these rankings. Up next is a guy built like a middle linebacker who runs like a deer ...

No. 17: Le'Veon Bell, RB, Michigan State, junior, 6-foot-2, 244 pounds

2011 postseason rank: Not ranked

2011 numbers: Led team with 948 rushing yards on 182 carries (5.2 yards per carry) and 13 touchdowns. Also caught 35 passes for 267 yards.

Why he's here: Michigan State didn't really settle on Bell as its main tailback until about halfway through last season, and he finished the year with just two 100-yard games. But there is every reason to believe that Bell could put up monstrous numbers this season.

For one, he's the unquestioned No. 1 back going into the season, especially with Edwin Baker moving on to the NFL a year early. For two, he's got a much more experienced and cohesive offensive line blocking for him. And for three, the Spartans likely will look to pound the rock more this year with inexperienced player at quarterback and receiver.

Even without all those reasons, we'd like Bell's chances of having a huge year. He's a 240-pound back who's surprisingly swift and nimble, and he tore through Michigan State's own star-studded defense this spring. He's very difficult to bring down on first contact and has enough escapability to run around guys. If Bell is focused and hungry all year long, look for him to easily surpass 1,000 yards and become a hot NFL prospect after the season.

The countdown

No. 25: Taylor Martinez, QB, Nebraska

No. 24: MarQueis Gray, QB, Minnesota

No. 23: Ricardo Allen, CB, Purdue

No. 22: Mike Taylor, LB, Wisconsin

No. 21: Jared Abbrederis, WR/KR, Wisconsin

No. 20: Denicos Allen, LB, Michigan State

No. 19: Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State

No. 18: Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State