- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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Our Big Ten Top 25 player countdown has reached the single digits, bringing us closer to the top each day.
Remember, these rankings reflect past performance and potential for the 2012 season. The next guy went from under-the-radar this time a year ago to one of the preseason favorites for 2012 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors:
No. 9: Jonathan Brown, LB, Illinois, junior, 6-foot-1, 235 pounds
2011 postseason rank: Not ranked
2011 numbers: Led Illinois with 108 tackles, ranked sixth nationally in tackles for loss with 19.5 and registered six sacks. Named second-team All-Big Ten by the media.
Why he's here: A high motor, speed and a little bit of recklessness helped Brown achieve a breakout season as a sophomore. He had some huge performances, including the Arizona State (3.5 tackle for loss, interception) and Ohio State (17 tackles, 1.5 sacks) games. Only teammate and Hendricks Award winner Whitney Mercilus had more tackles for loss in the Big Ten, and Mercilus got to line up a whole lot closer to the line of scrimmage. But Brown covers a whole lot of ground in a hurry.
Brown incurred a one-game suspension for an unsportsmanlike hit against Northwestern last year, but that was early in his first year as a starter. Expect a more mature player this season, and one who understands the game even better. Add that to his motor, speed and recklessness, and it could be a devastating combination.
No. 12: Ricky Wagner, OT, Wisconsin
No. 11: Johnny Adams, CB, Michigan State
1dJosh Moyer and Dan Murphy