Season's best Big 12 players: Nos. 21-25

The 2014 season is over and done. This week, we're going to rank the top 25 players in the Big 12 from the past year.

We're including our top 25 preseason rankings of each player too. In some cases we were on the money with our preseason player projections. In other cases, our prognostications were completely off the mark.

Criteria for these rankings were based solely on performances from 2014, not a culmination of previous seasons. Pro potential was not a factor. Neither was preseason hype.

Now, without further ado, the first five names in the countdown:

21. Eric Striker, LB, Oklahoma (preseason rank: 4): Striker didn’t live up to the monster preseason expectations that came with his three-sack performance in last year’s Sugar Bowl win over Alabama. But he was still a dominant player off the edge at times, finishing fourth in the Big 12 with nine sacks and 17 tackles for loss.

22. Bryce Hager, LB, Baylor (19): Hager capped his fabulous college career with another standout season. He finished fourth in the Big 12 with 114 tackles and earned second-team All-Big 12 honors for a third consecutive season. Hager had only one interception on the year, but it was a pivotal one, as he picked off Oklahoma and returned the ball to the 1-yard line to ignite the Bears’ 48-14 rout in Norman. The road victory propelled the Bears to their second straight Big 12 title.

23. Quandre Diggs, CB, Texas (18): Diggs was the vocal leader of one of the Big 12’s top defenses. He was the Longhorns’ most reliable performer in the secondary, finishing with three interceptions, 67 tackles and a pair of sacks. Diggs also helped usher in the Charlie Strong era at Texas, with his strong public backing of the first-year coach going all the way back to the summer. Replacing Diggs in the locker room will be just as difficult for Strong as replacing him on the field.

24. Dante Barnett, SS, Kansas State (NR): He successfully replaced Ty Zimmerman as the anchor of what proved to be a stout K-State defense. Barnett finished second among Big 12 safeties with 11 passes defended and was a major reason why the Wildcats ranked second in the Big 12 in pass defense. He was also second on the team with 77 tackles. With the likes of linebacker Jonathan Truman, end Ryan Mueller and nickelback Randall Evans graduating, the Wildcats will be asking even more out of Barnett in 2015.

25. Pete Robertson, LB, Texas Tech (NR): The Texas Tech defense might have been one of the worst statistical units in Big 12 history, but Robertson did everything he could to try to keep the Red Raiders afloat. Operating out of the bandit position in the Tech defense, Robertson topped the Big 12 with 13 sacks and was third in the league with 15.5 tackles for loss. Only a junior, Robertson will give new defensive coordinator David Gibbs a big piece to work with as he attempts to rebuild the Red Raiders defensively.

Coming Tuesday: Nos. 16-20