Top 10 players of the season: No. 4

Our player at No. 4 was a big hit for the Tigers this season, also finishing as our defensive MVP. He also dealt out quite a few big hits, and his ability to make game-changing plays keyed Missouri's momentum in several games.

In Gary Pinkel's 4-2-5 defense, the most important players are the two linebackers in the middle. And coming into the season, Gary Pinkel had one proven veteran at the spot in James Kinney, but at the other spot, there was a serious question mark. Sure Brandon Barnes was a senior, but he had played defensive back and receiver in those first four years.

But when it came to playing, Barnes was anything but a question mark. The bulked-up Barnes simply made plays all season and led this new-look defense throughout the season. He was the Tigers' hardest hitter, and he seemed to be around the ball on every play. And that not only earns him the fourth spot on our list, but we also have Barnes as the Tigers' defensive MVP this season.

He never had more than 12 tackles in a game, but he had double-digit tackle totals in eight of 12 games. But where Barnes came into effect more than anything was making the impact plays that change the game. He had a team-high two interceptions, both in the Tigers' rout of Texas Tech. The plays helped keep the Red Raiders' high-octane off the field and put Brad Smith on it. He also forced a fumble in that game that led to a Missouri touchdown.

Barnes kept on strong at the end of the season, with fumble recoveries in each of the last two games. Barnes didn't have the hype that Kinney had before the season, which helps explain how Barnes only finished as an honorable mention on the All-Big 12 team. Barnes might have not had more tackles, but he made some of the biggest plays of the season, which even his team recognized when it gave him the Hammer Award for the most big hits this season. Barnes was a big hit for the Tigers, and his surprise emergence helped turn the team around.

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