Oklahoma Sooners: top 25 players 2013

We're counting down to the beginning of the season with the top 25 players in the Big 12. The official list is locked away in a vault in an undisclosed location, but we'll be revealing players from the bottom of the list all the way to No. 1.

Here's more on my criteria.

Let's move on with the list:

No. 4: Gabe Ikard, C, Oklahoma

2012 numbers: Helped Oklahoma's offense rack up 6,482 total yards, good for fourth in the Big 12. Anchored an offensive line that gave up just 15 sacks on 571 pass attempts, third-fewest in the Big 12.

Most recent ranking: Ikard was No. 9 in our postseason list of the Big 12's top 25 players.

Making the case for Ikard: Ikard is a coaches' dream. What more could Oklahoma ask from him? As a redshirt freshman in 2010, he started 12 games at left guard and earned freshmen All-American honors after logging 72 knockdowns. He had 88 the next season, but had to move to center after Ben Habern suffered an injury. In the middle of fall camp the next season, Ikard made the move from guard to center again after Habern retired from the game because of injuries.

He was one of the Big 12's best as a junior and earned an All-Big 12 first-team nod. Oh, and he's an Academic All-American, too. He's a converted tight end who has added about 50 pounds since signing with the Sooners, and now holds together the middle of the Sooners' line at 6-foot-3 and 298 pounds. He's done everything Oklahoma's needed him to do, and he's excelled at it all. Now, he's one of the Big 12's best overall talents.

The rest of the list:
We're counting down to the beginning of the season with the top 25 players in the Big 12. The official list is locked away in a vault in an undisclosed location, but we'll be revealing players from the bottom of the list all the way to No. 1.

You can see more on my criteria earlier today.

First up on the list:

No. 25: Damien Williams, RB, Oklahoma

2012 numbers: Rushed for 946 yards and 11 touchdowns on 176 carries. Averaged 5.38 yards per carry. Caught 34 passes for 320 yards and a touchdown.

Most recent ranking: Williams was unranked in our postseason list of the Big 12's top 25 players.

Making the case for Williams: Nobody knew who Williams was until late in Oklahoma's season-opening win against UTEP last season. Highly recruited backs like Roy Finch and Brennan Clay garnered all the attention in the preseason, but Williams, a first-year juco transfer, won the job in midseason and left no question about who Oklahoma's best back would be in 2012.

He has the potential to do even more with an offseason of first-team reps and no question about his spot as the Sooners' featured back. He'll be a senior this season, and plenty of NFL teams will be watching him. He's deceptively fast and has fantastic vision. Look no further than his run against UTEP, plus a 95-yarder against Texas, an 89-yard run against Florida A&M and runs of 66 and 48 yards against TCU and West Virginia, respectively.

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