Counting Down the Big 12's Top Players

Day-by-day, we're counting down the Big 12's top players. Today's entry is athletic Missouri linebacker Zaviar Gooden.

41) Zaviar Gooden, junior LB, Missouri

Two Pflugerville alumni in a row leaves one asking what they put in the water just north of Austin. Alex Okafor is a gifted player, sure. But Gooden might be the most physically gifted linebacker in the country.

High praise? Certainly. But he's considered the best pound-for-pound athlete on the Missouri team, a 6-foot-2, 230-pound ball of lightning who has been clocked in the 4.3-second range in the 40-yard dash.

Oh yeah, and the former safety can play a bit. In his first career start, Missouri's rivalry game against Illinois, he notched eight tackles. It was a great start to a season that saw him lead the team with 85 stops, never making fewer than five stops in any game against FBS competition. He added 7.5 tackles for loss including three quarterback sacks.

His versatility was displayed in a game against Texas Tech, where he had seven tackles, including one for loss and broke up three passes, intercepting one of them. His best outing might have been against Nebraska, when he made seven tackles, three for loss and had two sacks.

Gooden's speed allows him to terrorize offenses from his weakside linebacker position, and he should earn some All-Big 12 mention this year, in his second year as a starter.

2010 Stats: 85 tackles, 7.5 for loss, three sacks, two fumble recoveries, two interceptions, one forced fumble

No. 42: Texas DL Alex Okafor

No. 43: Texas A&M DL Tony Jerod-Eddie

No. 44: Kansas RB James Sims

No. 45: Texas Tech S Cody Davis

No. 46: Iowa State CB Leonard Johnson

No. 47: Kansas State S Ty Zimmerman

No. 48: Baylor DE/LB Tevin Elliot

No. 49: Kansas State DE Brandon Harold

No. 50: Kansas DE Toben Opurum

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