The unofficial start of summer came this past weekend, but we're dreaming about the fall. With that in mind, we're looking at the most indispensable players on each Big Ten team.
By indispensable, we don't necessarily mean best. We mean the players who would be hardest to replace between now and the start of the season if they got hurt/suspended/became a ghost and danced in front of Don Draper, etc. That could be because of their value to the team or because of a lack of depth at their position.
We'll pick two players from each team, usually offense and defense, but not always. Next up: Wisconsin.
Michael Caputo, S, Jr.
As we mentioned in the intro, most indispensable doesn't always equal best player. Wisconsin's best player is running back Melvin Gordon. But with Corey Clement around, the Badgers could withstand a prolonged absence from Gordon and still be productive in the ground game. Sojourn Shelton is the team's most talented defensive back. Caputo might not be a star, but he did finish second on the team with 63 tackles last year. Moreover, with Dez Southward moving on to the NFL and Tanner McEvoy returning to quarterback, Caputo is the most experienced player at the safety position after moving back there from outside linebacker. Converted cornerback Peniel Jean and senior Leo Musso are competing for the other spot, while true freshman Austin Hudson got important reps this spring after enrolling early. Caputo could be the glue that keeps the safety position together.
Derek Landisch, ILB, Sr.
It says something about the difficulty of this task and the many question marks on the Badgers' roster that we picked a senior with three career starts as an indispensable player. But the fact is Wisconsin lost a ton of experience in its front seven, and no loss will be felt more than that of linebacker and 2013 Big Ten defensive player of the year Chris Borland. Landisch is not going to make as many plays as Borland did, but he's a solid tackler and a real leader at the position. Along with Marcus Trotter, Landisch should bring some stability to the inside linebacker spots as defensive coordinator Dave Aranda works in some promising new players this fall.