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Big 12 Roundtable: Breaking down the top 25 player ranking

Johnathan Gray has the potential to surprise the conference and lead the Longhorns' offense. Cooper Neill/Getty Images

In this week's Big 12 roundtable, we delve deeper into our Big 12 top 25 player ranking. Tomorrow, by the way, we'll be unveiling our final five players.

But first, we discuss the first four installments of the player ranking below:

Who has the biggest gripe about being left out of our top 25 player ranking?

Brandon Chatmon: I think West Virginia cornerback Daryl Worley is going to make us regret not having him on the list. The Mountaineers coverman has been an impact player since he arrived in Morgantown, West Virginia and I think he could take his game to another level and emerge as the Big 12’s top cornerback this fall. The junior brings size (6-foot-2, 198 pounds) and experience (16 career starts) to the Mountaineers secondary and makes life a lot easier for defensive coordinator Tony Gibson. Oklahoma’s Zack Sanchez and Oklahoma State’s Kevin Peterson definitely earned their spot on the list, but Worley is right alongside, not behind them, when the Big 12’s top cornerbacks come to mind.

Max Olson: You know who could make up look silly for excluding him? Johnathan Gray. We never seriously considered Gray for a spot in our preseason top 25. He was coming off an injury and had a brutal offensive line last year. But Charlie Strong considers Gray his best player, and few can top the senior when it comes to work ethic and leadership. I won't be surprised if, behind a much improved line, Gray surpasses 1,000 yards and plays up to his five-star potential this fall.

Jake Trotter: There were three quality corners that didn't make the cut in Worley, Kansas State's Danzel McDaniel and Texas' Duke Thomas. But I think Oklahoma State safety Jordan Sterns might actually be the best player that didn't make the list. Sterns led all Big 12 defensive backs in tackles last year in his first as a starter. Given how much better the rest of the Cowboy secondary should be this season, Sterns could be in for a big year as the enforcer of the Oklahoma State defense.

Who is ranked too low inside the top 25?

Chatmon: Texas defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway is too low. If he fills Malcom Brown's shoes in the fashion I’m expecting, he could rise into the top 10, maybe even top 5 this season. Ridgeway is very distruptive, recording at least half a tackle for loss in eight games in 2014, and seems ready to step into a bigger role. Will he be able to handle the double teams and additional attention? I’m guessing he will and, when he does, he’s sure to rise in these rankings.

Olson: Two players stand out to me: Oklahoma State's Peterson and TCU running back Aaron Green. I think both of them have a real chance of cracking the top 10 by the time we reach December. The No. 21 spot is far too low for Peterson, who's probably the Big 12's best all-around cover corner. Green will benefit in a big way from playing on such a senior-loaded offense, and TCU will keep him fresh with its supporting cast of backs.

Trotter: At No. 7, it feels like Oklahoma running back Samaje Perine might be a spot or two too low. He's probably the biggest threat to TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin defending his crown as Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year. Perine rushed for more than 1,700 yards and 21 touchdowns, despite not even starting the first month of last season. Ricky Williams was the last Big 12 back to rush for 2,000 yards in 1998 (though LaDainian Tomlinson also accomplished the feat in 2000). Perine is threat to join that illustrious club.

Who will top this list in 2016?

Chatmon: Assuming some of the elite underclassmen, like Ridgeway, Baylor’s Andrew Billings and Oklahoma State’s Emmanuel Ogbah leave early, I’m going with Ogbah’s teammate, Mason Rudolph for several reasons. (1) He’s a quarterback. (2) He should put up big numbers as a sophomore. (3) I expect Oklahoma State to get plenty of hype and be considered one of the preseason favorites in the Big 12 heading into 2016. And Rudolph will be the face of it all. There are other top sophomores, like Baylor's KD Cannon and Perine, that are tough to overlook but Rudolph gets the nod.

Olson: Man, this one is a head-scratcher. You just know a few players will surprise everyone and rise up into top-five consideration just as Boykin, Ogbah and Perine did in 2014. I guess the logical move is picking from Baylor's killer group of underclassmen, so I'll go with Billings because I could see him staying for his senior year. But I suspect we'll also be talking about Seth Russell as a contender for the No. 1 spot next year.

Trotter: Russell and Rudolph will certainly be candidates based on what happens this year, but Perine is the safe bet. In just one season, he proved he's the best running back in the league. He can't go to the pros until after next season. And assuming he stays healthy, he will likely be entering 2016 off back-to-back monster campaigns.