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Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Ranking the Big 12's best players: No. 5

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.

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.

Oklahoma's Jeremy Beal
Oklahoma defensive end Jeremy Beal often found himself in the opponent's backfield.
No. 5: Jeremy Beal, DE, Oklahoma

2010 numbers: Beal made 71 tackles, including 19 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks. He also forced three fumbles and broke up seven passes.

Most recent ranking: Beal was ranked No. 11 in our preseason list of the Big 12's top 25 players.

Making the case for Beal: The Sooners' four-year star should go down as one of the Big 12's great defenders of all time, and he capped his career with a great year. The 6-foot-3, 267-pound defensive end led the league in tackles for loss and ranked third in sacks. For all four years on the field, Beal was one of the Sooners' most consistent performers and if you couldn't find him on the field during a play, check the backfield. No. 44 was usually there.

Hard to believe defensive coordinator Brent Venables, who's been around quite awhile, didn't think Beal was suited for even his scout team the first time he saw him. That opinion changed when he saw the high school game tape, and at the end of Beal's career, there was no doubt he belonged. It's pretty clear he excelled. A pass-rusher and a run stopper, Beal could do a little of everything, and Oklahoma's defense benefited. Beal played in two BCS bowls and a national championship game during his career, and was a contributor for all four seasons -- a rarity in today's world of college football.

The rest of the list: