This week, we’ve started a new series examining the most indispensable player for every team in the Big 12. In other words, who is the player each team could least afford to lose to injury?
We’re knocking on wood before we turn in these posts; so no need to worry about a jinx.
We continue with the Kansas Jayhawks.
Most indispensable player: Linebacker Ben Heeney
Why Kansas can’t afford to lose him: Heeney is the best and most productive player on the team and provides peace of mind for the coaching staff.
During the past two seasons, Heeney has recorded 199 total tackles, and during that span, he’s recorded double-digit tackles in 11 games. Heeney is in the mold of the new era of linebacker who can be a critical part of the run defense yet still make plays in the passing game, as evidenced by his three interceptions in 2013. Few players in the conference can match his production at their respective positions.
In 2013, Heeney missed the Oklahoma and Baylor games. The Jayhawks allowed 5.85 yards per play to OU and 9.06 yards per play to BU, two of the four highest averages they allowed last season. Oklahoma and Baylor were BCS bowl teams last season but, nonetheless, those yards per play averages underline the importance of Heeney to KU’s defense.
Without Heeney, the Jayhawks would have to replace a major hole in the middle of their defense. His experience, consistent play and attacking style make him one of the Big 12’s top linebackers. And his leadership is evolving heading into his final season with the Jayhawks.