A sincere apology to a few Big 12 players

We kicked off our top 25 list today, but unfortunately, it's only a top 25 list.

Narrowing it down was incredibly difficult, and there were a ton of talents that didn't quite make the cut.

For that, I'm sorry. I legitimately feel awful about all of them.

Every guy on this list is a top-25 caliber player who just couldn't get inside my list. If somebody else made one, I'd be fine with them being on it. But this time, they didn't make mine. There are a lot of great players in this league, and I could only recognize 25.

But here are the rest who came so, so close, in no particular order.

Rodney Stewart, RB, Colorado: Rushed for 1,316 yards to rank third in the Big 12. My biggest reason for leaving him off? His 4.54 yards per carry ranks 17th in the Big 12. He got it done this year, but he got 290 carries to do it. Other backs were more deserving.

Ricky Henry, OG, Nebraska: Nebraska's running offense was fearsome early this year, and despite some late struggles, still finished No. 1 in the Big 12. Henry was a big reason why, but other linemen slid on the list before him.

Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado: His 68 tackles were second on the team, and he broke up four passes, but it was hard to put Smith on the list over the cornerbacks who made it, even though the position is extremely important in the Big 12.

Roy Helu Jr., RB, Nebraska : Helu finished with another 1,000-yard season, but I didn't have very many running backs on the list. Helu had a great year, and I don't mean this as a knock on him, but I was more impressed with his 1,145 yards last year without much help. Defenses spent so much time defending Taylor Martinez, holes for Helu formed that weren't there in 2009.

T.J. Moe, WR, Missouri: Moe has my title as the toughest cover in the Big 12, and his time in the top 25 is coming. Just not yet.

Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor: Wright's production might have been higher had Baylor not found other receivers to give Robert Griffin III some help, but other emerging receivers pushed Wright off the list after he made our preseason list.

Colby Whitlock, DT, Texas Tech: Whitlock had a nice year with 57 stops and two tackles for loss, but it wasn't a great year for defensive tackles in the Big 12.

Cyrus Gray, RB, Texas A&M and Jay Finley, RB, Baylor: Great years, obviously, but like I said, I just didn't put a lot of running backs on the list.

Taylor Martinez, QB, Nebraska: Never would have believed in October that he wouldn't make this list, but he wasn't a top 25 player in conference play. He works well for Nebraska in its offense, but plenty of other quarterbacks are above the freshman.

Andrew McGee, CB, Oklahoma State: Led the Big 12 in interceptions, with five, but defending the pass is about blanketing receivers, not picking off passes. That's not to say picking them off is a bad thing, but other corners were better at shutting down opposing receivers.

Jake Knott, LB, Iowa State: Racked up plenty of tackles, third in the Big 12 with 130, and he's a great player, but the book on how to beat Iowa State was out early. Running the ball against the Cyclones weak front four was effective, and opponents did it 512 times this year. Only 22 teams in college football faced more rushing attempts, and no Iowa State lineman made more than 40 tackles this year.

Michael Hodges, LB, Texas A&M: Hodges was the heart of Texas A&M's defense, and racked up 115 tackles, but other linebackers slid above him on the list.

Jamell Fleming, CB, Oklahoma: Fleming was all over the place after some early season struggles, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him on the list next year.

So, that's my list of close calls. Again, I felt terrible about not including every single one of those players, and if you want to make your own top 25 list and put them on it, they all definitely deserve it. But I can only fit 25 guys on my list, and putting one of these players on it would only mean another got snubbed.