Big Ten rankings: No. 4 William Gholston

It's Final Four time in our Big Ten Top 25 players countdown. These are the guys we see as the best of the best in the league for 2012.

As a reminder, these rankings are based on past performance and potential for this fall. This next guy started the 2012 calendar year off with a bang ...

No. 4: William Gholston, DE, Michigan State, junior, 6-foot-7, 278 pounds

2011 postseason rank: Not ranked

2011 numbers: Had 70 tackles, including 16 for loss and five sacks plus a forced fumble. Named to All-Big Ten second team by coaches and media.

Why he's here: We're basing these rankings off past performance and future potential, and few players combine both of those quite like Gholston.

His physical gifts are nearly unrivaled, as no one his size should be able to move as fast as Gholston does. He turned in a strong sophomore season and got Spartans fans truly excited for this season with his huge performance against Georgia in the Outback Bowl (five tackles for loss, two sacks). The light appeared to go on in that game for Gholston, much like it did for 2011 Big Ten defensive player of the year Devon Still in the same game a year earlier.

Gholston looked dominant at times during the spring and in preseason practices, and his coaches have said that giving a consistent effort is all the is keeping him from superstardom. We think Gholston makes that jump this year and cements himself as one of the unquestionably elite players in the Big Ten.

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

No. 17: Le'Veon Bell, RB, Michigan State

No. 16: Michael Buchanan, DE, Illinois

No. 15: Fitzgerald Toussaint, RB, Michigan

No. 14: Max Bullough, LB, Michigan State

No. 13: James Vandenberg, QB, Iowa

No. 12: Ricky Wagner, OT, Wisconsin

No. 11: Johnny Adams, CB, Michigan State

No. 10: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan

No. 9: Jonathan Brown, LB, Illlinois

No. 8: Chris Borland, LB, Wisconsin

No. 7: Kawann Short, DT, Purdue

No. 6: Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan

No. 5: Gerald Hodges, LB, Penn State