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Big Ten rankings: No. 2, Rex Burkhead

8/31/2012

And then there were two.

We're down to the final two names on our Big Ten Top 25 preseason player rankings. As a reminder, these rankings are based on past performance and potential for this season.

If the No. 1 player on our list cannot fulfill his duties, the runner-up will be more than happy to take his place. They do play the same position, after all.

No. 2: Rex Burkhead, RB, Nebraska, senior, 5-foot-11, 210 pounds

2011 postseason rank: No. 10

2011 numbers: Ran for 1,357 yards on 284 carries, with 15 touchdowns. Also caught 21 passes for 177 yards and two scores.

Why he's here: Burkhead erased all doubt last year that he's one of the best running backs in the country. He finished third in the Big Ten in rushing and was a first-team All-Big Ten performer. More importantly, he was, and is, the heart and soul of the Huskers.

What makes Burkhead special is that he approaches every carry as if his scholarship money depends on it. No one runs harder. While he may lack signature highlights, it's the compilation of effort that impresses. The lasting images of his 2011 season included his fourth-quarter heroics against Ohio State in a record-setting comeback and his school-record 38 carries in a tireless performance against Iowa.

This week, Nebraska launched a website for Burkhead to promote him for the Heisman Trophy and other awards. Burkhead doesn't need a lot of extra publicity. His play every Saturday says all you need to know.

The countdown

No. 25: Taylor Martinez, QB, Nebraska

No. 24: MarQueis Gray, QB, Minnesota

No. 23: Ricardo Allen, CB, Purdue

No. 22: Mike Taylor, LB, Wisconsin

No. 21: Jared Abbrederis, WR/KR, Wisconsin

No. 20: Denicos Allen, LB, Michigan State

No. 19: Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State

No. 18: Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State

No. 17: Le'Veon Bell, RB, Michigan State

No. 16: Michael Buchanan, DE, Illinois

No. 15: Fitzgerald Toussaint, RB, Michigan

No. 14: Max Bullough, LB, Michigan State

No. 13: James Vandenberg, QB, Iowa

No. 12: Ricky Wagner, OT, Wisconsin

No. 11: Johnny Adams, CB, Michigan State

No. 10: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan

No. 9: Jonathan Brown, LB, Illlinois

No. 8: Chris Borland, LB, Wisconsin

No. 7: Kawann Short, DT, Purdue

No. 6: Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan

No. 5: Gerald Hodges, LB, Penn State

No. 4: William Gholston, DE, Michigan State

No. 3: John Simon, DE, Ohio State