No. 12 James Gayle, DE, Virginia Tech
Previous ranking: Not ranked.
Making the case for Gayle: Last year, Gayle made the All-ACC second team after a solid season, but his production dipped slightly from 2011. Gayle ended up with five sacks and 11 tackles for loss, but Virginia Tech believes he is prepared to take the next step as a game-changing defensive end in 2013. Gayle had a terrific spring -- he won defensive MVP honors -- and he slimmed down, earning Super Iron Hokie honors as well. The hope is a more streamlined Gayle means a quicker Gayle off the line getting to the quarterback. Gayle has said he wants to get double-digits sacks this season, something he has not done yet in his Virginia Tech career. Given his renewed focus and sleeker physique, he has put himself in position to get there.