Big Ten rankings: No. 17, Jake Ryan

The Big Ten postseason player rankings march on, and the linebacker theme continues today. As a reminder, these rankings are based entirely on performance during the 2012 season. Our next selection has drawn comparisons to Clay Matthews, not only because of his long hair, but because of the way he plays ...

No. 17: Jake Ryan, LB, Michigan, sophomore, 6-foot-3, 242 pounds

Preseason rank: Not ranked

2012 numbers: Led Michigan in tackles (88), tackles for loss (16), sacks (4.5) and forced fumbles (4); recorded one fumble recovery, three pass breakups and two quarterback hurries

Why he's here: Michigan is back to playing very solid defense under coach Brady Hoke and coordinator Greg Mattison, but the Wolverines haven't been loaded with superstars. Ryan likely is changing that after a superb sophomore season. He was by far Michigan's top playmaker on defense, recording 10 more tackles for loss and three more forced fumbles than any other Wolverine.

Ryan tied for the Big Ten lead in forced fumbles and finished third in tackles for loss (second among linebackers). He earned Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week honors after recording 3.5 tackles for loss in a win against Illinois. Ryan did much of his damage in Big Ten play and had a strong performance against rival Ohio State (9 tackles, 2 forced fumbles, 2 tackles for loss, 1 sack).

A second-team All-Big Ten selection (media), Ryan led a Michigan defense that ranked 13th nationally in yards allowed and 20th in scoring. He'll anchor a linebacker group that should be one of the nation's best in 2013.

The countdown

No. 25: Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan

No. 24: Michael Carter, CB, Minnesota

No. 23: Kain Colter, QB, Northwestern

No. 22: Spencer Long, G, Nebraska

No. 21: Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State

No. 20: Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska

No. 19: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State

No. 18: Mike Taylor, LB, Wisconsin