- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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It's that time again.
Time for us to rank the Top 25 players in the Big Ten for the 2013 season. We do this every preseason and every postseason, and the lists have slightly different criteria depending on the time of year. For our preseason list, we take into account past performance and potential for the coming season only. We don't care much about NFL potential for purposes of these rankings, as we're merely identifying the most impactful players in the Big Ten this fall.
You can view our postseason Top 25 player rankings here. You'll notice right away that 10 players have either graduated or gone on to the NFL from last year's list, while another -- Michigan linebacker Jake Ryan -- is expected to be injured most of the season. Another name you won't find on this preseason list is Ohio State running back Carlos Hyde, who almost certainly would have cracked our Top 20 before news of his suspension came to light on Monday.
That means there is plenty of room for new names to emerge, and we're sure we're leaving off not only several very valuable veterans in this league but also a handful of new stars who will make themselves known this fall. But for now, we start off our list with ...
No. 25: Jonathan Brown, LB, Illinois, senior, 6-foot-1, 235 pounds
2012 postseason ranking: Not ranked
2012 numbers: Had 59 tackles, including 9.5 for loss and 2.5 sacks, plus a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in nine games.
Why he's here: Brown was one of the most devastating defensive forces in the Big Ten as a sophomore, racking up 19.5 tackles for loss. Injuries -- especially a shoulder problem that shut him down for the final three games -- plus the Illini's general malaise slowed him considerably in 2012, although he still was named a Butkus Award semifinalist.
Brown told ESPN.com last week that his shoulder is fully healed, and he's itching to get back on the field to do his thing. Illinois has a lot of problems, but linebacker could be one of the best positions on the field for Tim Beckman, and a healthy Brown could make a world of difference. He is pledging to let it all hang out this year for his senior campaign, and we're eager to see if he can recapture his 2011 form. If so, he'll easily be one of the top players in the Big Ten, even at a position that's as loaded as linebacker.