Counting down the Irish: 2012’s Top 25

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With the end of informal workouts coming to an end, it’s time to knock out our annual Top 25 on the Irish roster. As we’ve done the past few years, it’s a fairly simple exercise that produces some unusual results.

This year, I’m excited about the group of panelists that begrudgingly played along with my silly game. The group:

Eric Hansen, South Bend Tribune
John Walters, The Daily
John Vannie, NDNation.com
Eric Murtaugh, representing the team at OneFootDown.com
Ryan Ritter, representing the team at HerLoyalSons.com
Keith Arnold, NBCSports.com’s Inside the Irish

Just about everyone in America could agree that All-Americans Tyler Eifert and Manti Te’o are the best two players on the Irish roster. But from there, well… it got interesting.

We’ll roll out our composite list five at a time starting Monday, with some discussion between the panels and hopefully along with you in the comments and on Twitter.

For a quick trip down memory lane, here’s a look at my Top 25 from 2010:

TOP 25 IN 2010
1. Michael Floyd
2. Kyle Rudolph
3. Manti Te’o
4. Chris Stewart
5. Trevor Robinson
6. Brian Smith
7. Armando Allen
8. Dayne Crist
9. Darius Fleming
10. Ian Williams
11. Kapron Lewis-Moore
12. Ethan Johnson
13. Darrin Walls
14. Cierre Wood
15. Harrison Smith
16. Robert Hughes
17. Jamoris Slaughter
18. Steve Filer
19. Duval Kamara
20. Zack Martin
21. Theo Riddick
22. Gary Gray
23. Taylor Dever
24. TJ Jones
25. Nick Tausch

Looking back, obviously names like Nick Tausch were in the pre-David Ruffer era and TJ Jones was coming off lighting up his first spring practice as an early enrollee. Harrison Smith’s inclusion at No. 15 was ridiculed back then, before he racked up a huge junior season on his way to being selected in the first round.

Here’s the compilation list from our panelists from 2011:

TOP 25 in 2011
25. Taylor Dever (OT, Sr.)
24. Chris Watt (OG, Jr.)
23. Zeke Motta (S, Jr.)
22. Aaron Lynch (DE, Fr.)
21. Carlo Calabrese (LB, Jr.)
20. TJ Jones (WR, Soph.)
19. Louis Nix (NT, Soph.)
18. Braxston Cave (C, Sr.)
17. Tommy Rees (QB, Soph.)
16. Prince Shembo (OLB, Soph.)
15. Trevor Robinson (OG, Sr.)
14. Ethan Johnson (DE, Sr.)
13. Dayne Crist (QB, Sr.)
12. Tyler Eifert (TE, Jr.)
11. Kapron Lewis-Moore (DE, Sr.)
10. Robert Blanton (CB, Sr.)
9. David Ruffer (K, Sr.)
8. Theo Riddick (WR, Jr.)
7. Cierre Wood (RB, Jr.)
6. Darius Fleming (OLB, Sr.)
5. Gary Gray (CB, Sr.)
4. Zack Martin (LT, Jr.)
3. Harrison Smith (S, Sr.)
2. Manti Te’o (ILB, Jr.)
1. Michael Floyd (WR, Sr.)

Looking back, it’s hard to argue with the top three, but the first disappointment is obviously Gary Gray, who had a substandard season after looking really good in 2010. In retrospect, Tyler Eifert was about 10 spots too low as well.

It’s a fun exercise and hopefully we all enjoy the debate and look back with the upcoming 2012 list.