- Kevin Gemmell, ESPN Staff Writer
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Our countdown of the top 25 players in 2012 continues.
No. 9: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
2012 numbers: He totaled 42 tackles (25 solo) and also notched 10 tackles for a loss, five sacks, forced three fumbles and recovered four of them. He also broke up four passes.
Preseason ranking: No. 2
Making the case for Lotulelei: Utah's All-America defensive tackle (Associated Press, Walter Camp) is projected by many to be a top-10 pick in this year's NFL draft. A dominant force in the middle, Lotulelei actually improved on his numbers in sacks and tackles for a loss from the previous season despite facing more double- and triple-teams. He helped the Utes boast the No. 2 rushing defense in the Pac-12, yielding 128.2 yards on the ground per game. He dips a bit from his preseason ranking, however, because he's the headliner on a Utah defense that, as a whole slipped, from last season (No. 1 in the league last year, yielding 20.2 points per game to No. 7 in 2012, allowing 25.1). But as an individual talent, he's clearly deserving of a spot in the top 10 and will make an NFL defensive coordinator very, very happy.
No. 10: Markus Wheaton, WR, Oregon State
No. 11: Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA
No. 12: Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State
No. 13: Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford
No. 14: Matt Barkley, QB, USC
No. 15: Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA
No. 16: Trent Murphy, OLB, Stanford
No. 17: Chase Thomas, OLB, Stanford
No. 18: Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon
No. 19: David Yankey, OL, Stanford
No. 20: Dion Jordan, DE/OLB, Oregon
No. 21: Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State
No. 22: Ed Reynolds, S, Stanford
No. 23: Michael Clay, LB, Oregon
No. 24: Taylor Kelly, QB, Arizona State
No. 25: Reggie Dunn, KR, Utah