Big 12's top 25 players: Nos. 25-21

TCU safety Denzel Johnson finished with a team-high 13.5 tackles for loss last season and returned his lone interception for a touchdown. AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez

As fall camps kick off across the Big 12 this week, it's time once again to rank the conference's top 25 players entering the season.

This process requires much deliberation and never gets any easier. There are some very talented players who just missed the cut and could certainly prove to be among the league's best by season's end.

We begin this year's preseason list with Nos. 25-21:

25. Dante Barnett, S, Kansas State: Barnett was poised for a big senior season and was No. 15 on our preseason Top 25 player rankings last year. But a shoulder injury in the first half of K-State's season opener shut him down for the 2015 season. Now he's back and one of the Big 12's most experienced veterans, with 29 career starts. Barnett boosts a Wildcats defense -- in coverage, as a hitter and as a leader -- that sorely missed him last fall.

24. Allen Lazard, WR, Iowa State: A tough matchup for any defensive back at 6-foot-5 and 223 pounds, Lazard has hauled in 101 passes for 1,401 yards and nine touchdowns over his first two seasons in Ames. He keeps getting better and will benefit from a full season of playing with Joel Lanning, who completed 66 percent of his passes and averaged 17.4 yards per completion when he targeted Lazard last season.

23. Noble Nwachukwu, DE, West Virginia: The fifth-year senior has steadily developed into one of the conference's finest pass-rushers. He stepped up in October and November last season, racking up 7.5 sacks and 12 tackles for loss in conference play. Among Big 12 linemen, only Oklahoma State's Emmanuel Ogbah topped that production. Nwachukwu has started 26 straight games and will be a playmaker for a Mountaineers defense that is replacing a lot of senior leadership.

22. Joe Mixon, RB, Oklahoma: Mixon would be the feature back for a lot of other programs, but you can argue that teaming up with Samaje Perine made him even more effective in his debut season with the Sooners. Mixon averaged 7.9 yards per touch on offense last season -- best among all returning Big 12 backs -- on the way to 1,109 total yards (including 356 yards receiving) and 11 touchdowns. He logged four scores of 55-plus yards and will be one of the league's best big-play threats again this fall.

21. Denzel Johnson, S, TCU: The strong safety made a living causing problems at the line of scrimmage last season. He spent a lot of time in the backfield too, with a team-high 13.5 tackles for loss. Johnson made big plays, including the pass breakup to clinch the Alamo Bowl comeback win over Oregon, and a ton of stops (79 tackles) in run support and in the open field. All that was in his first season as a starter. In Gary Patterson's defense, he's an ideal hybrid weapon for stopping Big 12 offenses.