The Big Ten postseason Top 25 player countdown is reaching the home stretch. As a reminder, we're basing these rankings on 2011 performance and impact and not other factors like NFL potential.
Now let's head back to Sparta for ...
No. 7: Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State, Jr., 6-foot-3, 310
Preseason rank: No. 14
2011 numbers: Started all 14 games at defensive tackle and recorded 30 tackles, including 10.5 for loss and 3.5 sacks. He added two blocked kicks, a fumble recovery and three quarterback hurries.
Why he's here: Worthy entered the season with a lot of NFL draft hype, and backed it up with his play, solidifying the interior of the Big Ten's top-rated defense (No. 6 nationally). Like many standout defensive tackles, Worthy made an impact on games that went far beyond the numbers. He topped every opponent's scouting report, and regularly commanded the attention of multiple offensive linemen.
Worthy was one of five Big Ten players to earn consensus first-team All-America honors, and earned first-team All-Big Ten recognition from both the coaches and the media. He joined elite company at Michigan State as the first Spartans defensive lineman to earn first-team Associated Press All-America honors since the late Bubba Smith in 1966. He also was a semifinalist for both the Lombardi and Bednarik awards.
He recorded a tackle for loss in nine games and finished with five tackles and two tackles for loss in Michigan State's victory against Georgia in the Outback Bowl. Worthy anchored a defensive line that helped Michigan State rank ninth nationally in rush yards allowed (100.5 ypg). Not surprisingly, he decided to forgo his senior season and enter the 2012 NFL draft.
No. 8: Marvin McNutt, WR, Iowa
No. 9: Kirk Cousins, QB, Michigan State
No. 10: Rex Burkhead, RB, Nebraska
No. 11: Mike Martin, DT, Michigan
No. 12: Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska
No. 15: John Simon, DL, Ohio State
No. 16: Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan
No. 25: Fitz Toussaint, RB, Michigan