Big Ten rankings: No. 25, Fitz Toussaint

As promised earlier, our postseason countdown of the Top 25 players in the Big Ten kicks off today with No. 25. These rankings are based solely on performance during the 2011 season and do not take into account things like NFL potential.

Let's dive right in:

No. 25: Fitz Toussaint, RB, Michigan, Soph., 5-foot-10, 195

Preseason rank: Not ranked

2011 numbers: Rushed 187 times for 1,041 yards and nine touchdowns. Also caught six passes for 28 yards and a score.

Why he's here: When doing lists like these, the difference between player No. 25 and, say, No. 30 is very small, and we could have chosen a lot of players for this spot. But we really liked what Toussaint did in finally providing Denard Robinson another option in the backfield. After rushing for only 87 yards last year, Toussaint was a revelation in 2011, and he proved especially valuable in Big Ten play. He ran for 108 yards versus Minnesota, 170 against Purdue, 192 at Illinois, 138 against Nebraska and 120 versus Ohio State. And it's no coincidence that Michigan was 5-0 when he eclipsed 100 yards.

In conference play, Toussaint averaged 5.9 yards per carry. Among the league's top rushers, only Montee Ball had a better yards-per-carry number. Combined with Robinson's running ability at the quarterback spot, Toussaint's emergence caused headaches for defenses around the league. That's a malady they'll have to get used to, as he has two years of eligibility left in Ann Arbor.