Top 10 players of the season: No. 10

As Inside Mizzou starts its top 10 players of the season leading up to the Independence Bowl matchup with Arkansas on New Year's Eve, No. 10 was a key figure on the defense, even if many had their doubts about his impact going in.

When Brian Smith began the season, there were many doubts about how well he would fit in as a defensive end.

Could he defend the run? Clearly, his 6-foot-4, 220-pound frame was suited for beating the tackle on the pass rush, but perhaps he would have to be subbed out on rushing downs. Even then, his size was even a doubt for the pass.

Smith tossed away many of those doubts quickly, with a sack in each of the Tigers' first four games. The early talk of the season was Smith's quest to break the sack record held by another Smith, first-round draft pick Justin Smith.

Smith didn't break the record, but he pressured opposing quarterbacks throughout the season, and he finished with a team-high eight sacks, and helped pull together a defensive line that was the Tigers' biggest question entering the season.

Smith also led the team with four forced fumbles, and he finished with 39 tackles. So yes, he could defend other players other than the quarterback. In addition to the eight sacks, though, he also put five more hits on quarterbacks this season. He also recovered a fumble.

Smith, a redshirt freshman, will be a key figure for Missouri's defense in the future. Then again, he was a key figure this season, and he made the list at No. 10 on Inside Mizzou's top 10 players of the season.

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