Top 25 players in the Big 12: No. 17

With signing day quickly approaching, it’s time to close the chapter on the 2013 season. We’re counting down the top 25 players in the Big 12 in 2013 over the next few days with a list collaboratively selected by Jake Trotter, Brandon Chatmon and Max Olson. We continue the postseason countdown with the No. 17 player in the Big 12.

No. 17: Caleb Lavey, LB, Oklahoma State

Previous ranking: Lavey was unranked in the blog’s preseason list of the Big 12’s top 25 players.

Making the case for Lavey: The best Oklahoma State defense in Mike Gundy’s nine years as head coach wasn’t a one-man show. Calvin Barnett was a load at defensive tackle. Shaun Lewis was a versatile playmaking linebacker. And Justin Gilbert was one of the best cover corners in the country. But Lavey was the glue at middle linebacker that kept the Big 12’s best defense together.

Lavey paced the Cowboys with 93 tackles, and led all Big 12 linebackers with four interceptions. He was also sixth in the league with 12.5 tackles for loss and tied for third with three forced fumbles.

With Lavey spearheading the effort, the Cowboys ranked first in the Big 12 in a host of “next level” defensive statistics, including red-zone defense, points per drive allowed, turnovers forced, touchdown drive percentage and opponent quarterback rating.

Lavey, an outgoing senior, wasn't the fastest linebacker. Or the biggest. But he always ended up around the football -- something that won’t be easily replaced in Stillwater.

The rest of the list: