Let's resume our series looking at the most indispensable players on each Big Ten squad entering the 2012 season. Once again, this is not necessarily a listing of the best players on each team, but ones whose absence would be toughest to absorb because of their particular value or a lack of depth behind them.
We're selecting two players from each Big Ten squad, usually one on offense and one on defense, but not always. Up next, the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
MarQueis Gray, QB, Sr.
While the Philip Nelson prophecy grew this spring, the fact remains that Gray is the team's only proven weapon on offense. He carried the unit at times in 2011, setting a team record for quarterback rushing with 996 yards and adding 1,495 yards through the air. While there's no doubt Gray must make significant upgrades in the passing game, he should be more comfortable in his second year in Matt Limegrover's system. Minnesota lacks proven playmakers around No. 5, and the idea of a Gophers offense without Gray on the field is extremely daunting. Gray can make a lot happen on the ground, as he showed with consecutive 160-yard rushing performances to finish the 2011 season. And he has shown glimpses as a passer, like a 295-yard effort at Michigan State. Consistency is the key with him, but Minnesota needs to keep Gray upright and healthy this fall.
Troy Stoudermire, CB/returner, Sr.
Minnesota received a huge boost when the NCAA granted Stoudermire a medical hardship waiver in January. The secondary loses its undisputed leader in safety Kim Royston, and while some experienced defensive backs like Brock Vereen return, Stoudermire's presence provides a big boost. Stoudermire recorded 24 tackles, two interceptions and three pass breakups in the first five games last fall and still led the team in interceptions at the end of the season. He's a natural playmaker who Minnesota can send against opponents' top receivers. Stoudermire also gives the Gophers a record-setting return man in the kicking game.