Missouri Tigers’ Shane Ray Named SEC Defensive Player of the Year


Missouri Tigers redshirt junior defensive end Shane Ray was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Year on Monday by the Associated Press. Ray is the second straight Mizzou defensive end to take the honor, as left end Michael Sam won the award following the 2013 season. Notable players that Ray edged out for the award included two unanimous selections to the All-SEC defensive team: Ole Miss cornerback Senquez Golson, who had nine interceptions this year, and Alabama safety Landon Collins, who was arguably the most consistent safety in college football this year.

Ray, who is in his first year as a starter after replacing the departed Kony Ealy, is the SEC leader in sacks this season with 14 and is fourth in the nation in that category. He also contributed 61 total tackles, including 21 tackles for loss for a total of 118 yards. He had five quarterbacks hits, two forced fumbles, one pass breakup, and one pass defended.

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Though he is still an underclassman, Ray has widely been projected as a top-five pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, so it should be interesting to see whether he decided to leave school after this season. Considering his 6-foot-3, 245-pound frame, Ray would likely project as a 3-4 outside linebacker at the NFL level.

Ray and his fellow starting end, Markus Golden, both have a chance to go in the first round and could add to defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski’s legacy of developing NFL talent. Since he took over in 1996, the Tigers have had four defensive linemen–Justin Smith, Ziggy Hood, Aldon Smith, and Sheldon Richardson–taken in the first round, while Sam, Ealy, Attiyah Ellison, and C.J. Mosley have also been drafted.