Now that spring practice is over, we’re taking a look 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/bitten by a Komodo dragon, 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. Up next: the Wisconsin Badgers.
Jared Abbrederis, WR
Abbrederis led the Badgers with 49 catches for 837 yards and five touchdowns last year. The next top receiver on the team was Jordan Frederick, who had just 17 receptions for 196 yards and one score. Only one other wide receiver, Jeff Duckworth, caught a touchdown. Nowhere on the team is there such a large difference between the best player at his position and the No. 2 guy. That was amplified last year when Abbrederis was banged up and the team struggled to get much going in the passing game. New receivers coach Chris Beatty is trying to develop some complementary players to go with Abbrederis this offseason, but so far it seems to be going slowly. That's why he's so important to the Badgers' hopes in 2013.
You could argue that Chris Borland belongs on this list, and you'd have a strong case, especially with Wisconsin using more 3-4 looks on defense this season. But at least the Badgers have some experience at linebacker besides Borland. That's not the case in the secondary, where Southward is the lone returning starter. Redshirt freshman Reggie Mitchell is a possible starter at the other safety spot, and there's precious little experience behind Southward. Gary Andersen is bringing in two juco defensive backs for a reason. Southward developed into a very solid player last year, and Wisconsin needs him both for his ability and his leadership.