Top 10 players of the season: No. 9

As Inside Mizzou continues to rank its top 10 players of the season, we look to another newcomer on defense, one who made his impact right away. This defender was the key to Missouri's last-minute stop against Illinois, and continued to play consistently throughout the season.

Third down for Illinois at the Missouri 23. Only enough time for two plays. First game of the season, and Missouri needed to keep the Illini out to preserve a 22-15 win.

That's when newcomer Nino Williams made his presence known. Taking tight end Melvin Bryant on coverage on both third and fourth downs, Williams stopped both of quarterback Jon Beutjer's passes to Bryant and Missouri started its season with a win.

Williams, Missouri's free safety, was just about as consistent as any other Missouri player on defense this season. He finished third in tackles, with only the Tigers' two linebackers ahead of him.

Williams had a knack for the finding the ball when it was on the ground; he tied with Brandon Barnes for the team lead in recovered fumbles with three. He broke up nine passes, second on the team to Michael Harden.

Williams' biggest problem was coming up with the ball when it was in the air. Missouri didn't have a lot of interceptions this year, and Williams let at least four go right through his hands. One, against Middle Tennessee State, slipped through his hands and to the hands of the opponent. Another one almost led to a Kansas touchdown.

Sure, Williams could improve in some areas. But as a newcomer, Williams sure made his impact, and he places at No. 9 on Inside Mizzou's top 10 players of the season.

Inside Mizzou's top 10 players of the season:

No. 10: Brian Smith No. 9: Nino Williams

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