- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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This is the first of a special batch of two installments in the Big Ten Top 25 player countdown today. As a reminder, these rankings are based on performance during the 2011 season and a player's impact on his team, and not on factors such as NFL potential.
Just outside the Top 10 is a guy who had a great career and a major impact on the 2011 season:
No. 11: Mike Martin, DT, Michigan, Sr., 6-2, 304
Preseason rank: No. 10
2011 numbers: Registered 64 tackles, including six for loss and 3.5 sacks. Named a second-team All-Big Ten performer.
Why he's here: Even when Michigan's defense was lousy during the Rich Rodriguez years, Martin provided a bright spot. In 2011, the defense shined, and Martin was again an anchor in the middle of the defensive front.
Strong and explosive for his size, Martin was nearly impossible to push backwards, and the Wolverines' defense excelled in short yardage situations in large part due to his play inside. He did more than just occupy blockers, too, coming up with big plays like in his 10-tackle showing against Virginia Tech in the Allstate Sugar Bowl win. A standout performance in the NFL combine earlier this week illustrated his physical gifts, and Martin also offered strong leadership as a team captain who gave teammates an excellent example on and off the field to follow.
He could easily have made our Top 10, and in other seasons he would have won postseason awards. But it was a very strong year for defensive tackles in the Big Ten.
No. 13: Riley Reiff, LT, Iowa
No. 14: B.J. Cunningham, WR, Michigan State
No. 15: John Simon, DL, Ohio State
No. 16: Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan
No. 25: Fitz Toussaint, RB, Michigan