2014 Arch Awards: St. Louis MVP Nominees

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Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Shane Ray: There was an expectation from most Mizzou observers that defensive end Shane Ray would have a rather seamless transition to a starting position this year after getting 4.5 sacks as Kony Ealy’s backup during the 2013 season. Very few, however, could have predicted that the redshirt junior would develop into arguably the best defensive end in the nation and position himself as both a probable early first-rounder in the 2015 NFL Draft and a strong candidate for SEC Defensive Player of the Year.

Ray, who finished first in the SEC and fourth in the FBS in sacks with 13.5, came out on fire and kept up his pace throughout the season, collecting multiple sacks in five of the Tigers’ 12 regular season games. He was a key cog on the defense that was hugely responsible for the Tigers winning the SEC East for the second straight year.

While Ray has arguably had the shortest run of success of any of our four MVP candidates, he’s probably the one who’s done the most to put his team on his back and lead them to success.

Next: Adam Wainwright, St. Louis Cardinals