Notre Dame 2012 Top 25 countdown: No. 22

Our series continues with the newcomer who made the biggest impact in 2012...

No. 22: KeiVarae Russell, CB

Making the case: Russell was arguably the biggest surprise on a Notre Dame team that had more than its fair share of them during this historic 2012 season. Recruited as a running back and switched to corner upon his summer arrival, the Everett, Wash., native found himself thrust into a starting role after first-teamer Lo Wood went down in camp with a season-ending Achilles injury. All Russell did in the aftermath was perform at a level that earned him freshman All-America honors from the FWAA, helping to shore up a position that figured to be the Irish's weakness entering this season. The fast-talking, fast-playing Russell started every game and finished with two picks, two tackles for loss, 0.5 sacks, two break-ups, four passes defended, one quarterback hurry and 58 total tackles, the last number good for fifth-most on a team that led the nation in scoring defense in the regular season.

Preseason ranking: NR

The countdown

No. 23 Robby Toma, WR

No. 24 Kyle Brindza, K

No. 25 Chris Brown, WR