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Thursday, June 10, 2010
Ranking the Big 12's best: No. 18

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Today is Day 8 of our countdown of the Big 12's 25 best players entering the 2010 season. The full results are locked in a vault in an undisclosed location, but we'll be revealing one player per day until we reach the top of the list.

Remember, this isn't a list of the top 25 NFL prospects in the league. It's heavily weighted toward actual accomplishment in players' college careers, as well as the likely impact for their teams in the 2010 season.

No. 18: Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri

2009 numbers: Ranked No. 4 in the Big 12 with 11 sacks. Tied for third in the conference with 19 tackles for loss.

Most recent ranking: Smith was unranked in last offseason's ranking of the conference's top 40 players.

Making the case for Smith: The tales of Smith's dominance on the scout team leaked out during his redshirt season in 2008. Last season, he made them a reality in Big 12 play, earning Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year honors, along with a spot on the All-Big 12 second team. His wiry frame (6-foot-5, 255 pounds) makes him a unique player on the edge, but his speed often makes him unblockable. He broke the single-season freshman record for sacks and will pay the price of constant double teams throughout his sophomore season. Only 3.5 of Smith's sacks came in the final five games, but if he can produce more eye-popping numbers again, he'll have an outside shot at winning Defensive Player of the Year.

The rest of the list: