Breakout defensive players for 2012

Barkevious Mingo will be front and center in LSU's pursuit of opposing QBs next season. Jamie Squire/Getty Images

This is the fourth installment of potential breakout players for the 2012 college football season. The first three reviewed quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers. Today's subject is defensive players.

As was the case with the earlier reviews, the process starts by defining what the term "breakout player" means.

The first criterion was to rule out any player who made the official first- or second-team all-conference selections. Next, a combination of game tape and metric reviews were performed to cull the best candidates among the contenders.

Taking these factors into account, the following list of top five breakout defensive player candidates was created (ranked in order of the likelihood that they will have a strong 2012 campaign).

1. Denicos Allen, LB, Michigan State Spartans

To get an idea of just how great Allen was this past year, consider that the Michigan State defense had two first-team All-Big Ten selections and three second-team All-Big Ten picks, yet the player with the highest production points total (a measurement put together by the Michigan State coaches) was none other than Allen.