Big Ten rankings: No. 24, Mark Weisman

We have begun our preseason countdown of the Top 25 players in the Big Ten for the 2013 campaign. This list is based on past performance and potential for the upcoming season only. We do not consider NFL potential for purposes of these rankings.

Coming up next is a guy who wouldn't have cracked our preseason Top 300 a year ago at this time but who has earned a spot in the Top 25 for 2013 ...

No. 24: Mark Weisman, RB, Iowa, junior, 6-foot, 236 pounds

2012 postseason ranking: Not ranked

2012 numbers: Carried the ball 159 times for 815 yards (5.1 yards per carry) and eight touchdowns. Also caught 15 passes for 90 yards and a score.

Why he's here: What would Weisman's final numbers have looked like had he been the Hawkeyes' No. 1 tailback from the word go, stayed healthy and had his offensive line intact down the stretch?

We'll never know, but we do know that Weisman's stats still looked pretty darn good despite starting only nine games. He was a revelation upon his emergency emergence as the team's top ball carrier, running for 113 yards and three touchdowns against Northern Iowa, 217 yards and three scores versus Central Michigan, 177 yards against Minnesota and 116 yards at Michigan State. Weisman got banged up and couldn't continue that torrid pace, and in fact he had less than 10 rushing yards in five of Iowa's 12 games.

Weisman will have a lot more competition for carries this year, as Iowa finally has a healthy and deep stable of running backs (knock on wood). But as the offense looks to focus once again on a power running game to set up the play-action pass, the bull-like Weisman seems like the perfect candidate to soften up the opposing defense. And even when he's not being used as the primary running option, he can be a very effective blocker.

And if he stays healthy and keeps the No. 1 tailback job all year, who knows what kind of numbers he can put up.

The countdown

No. 25: Jonathan Brown, LB, Illinois