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Thursday, March 10, 2011
Ranking the Big 12's best players: No. 8

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

The official list of the Big 12's top 25 players is locked away in a vault in an undisclosed location, but we're revealing the list day by day here on the blog. Here's a refresher on my exact criteria.

Nate Solder
Colorado's Nate Solder is projected to be a first-round pick in the NFL draft.
We're inside the top 10 now, so things should heat up a little bit. Have a gripe with the list? Let me know in the mailbag.

No. 8: Nate Solder, OT, Colorado

2010 numbers: Solder was the rock on an offensive line that paved the way for 1,642 rushing yards. Colorado's offensive line also gave up just 21 sacks on the year, tied for 4th in the Big 12.

Most recent ranking: Solder was ranked No. 6 in our preseason list of the Big 12's top 25 players.

Making the case for Solder: Don't worry about the total numbers for the Buffaloes, whose running game ranked 11th in the Big 12 last year. Solder got it done once again. And, for what it's worth, the Buffaloes' featured runner, Rodney Stewart, rushed for 1,316 yards. That's good for third in the Big 12 and suggest a deficiency of runners more than the offensive line.

It's especially encouraging for the Buffaloes who gave up 43 sacks a year ago and just 21 this year. The offensive line stayed healthy, and when Colorado ran the ball well, it won. That was the case in wins over Georgia and Colorado, and Stewart had big days against Iowa State and Kansas State in the team's only two conference wins of the year.

The rest of the list: