Now that spring practice is over, we're examining the most indispensable players on each Big Ten team for the 2013 season.
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 or suspended or shot out of a cannon. 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. Let's take a look at who's indispensable for the Nebraska Cornhuskers:
Taylor Martinez, QB
It's hard to imagine anyone other than Martinez, who has started the past 39 games, lining up at quarterback for the Huskers. The senior improved as a passer last season and finished with a career-high 1,019 rushing yards to lead the Big Ten in total offense. Backups Tommy Armstrong Jr. and Ron Kellogg III looked good in the spring game, and Armstrong in particular shows great promise. But this is Martinez's offense, and he's in complete control of it as he enters his third year working with coordinator Tim Beck. Martinez will need to stop forcing throws when Nebraska falls behind and take better care of the ball in general. Still, the Huskers would assuredly take a major step backwards if Martinez was lost for any reason.
David Santos, LB
There's no obvious pick for a second indispensable player. Nebraska has valuable standouts like receiver Kenny Bell, guard Spencer Long and defensive back Ciante Evans, but their positions are fairly deep. The Huskers could probably even withstand the loss of running back Ameer Abdullah, given how Imani Cross performed this spring and Martinez's own running ability. That is why we're going with Santos, even though he's just a sophomore with 24 career tackles under his belt. Nebraska lost all three starters at linebacker from last season, and during the spring, Santos became the de facto leader of that group despite his youth. He's versatile enough to play both in the middle or on the outside, though he'll most likely start the year in the middle. The Huskers are frightfully inexperienced in the front seven on defense, but are counting on superior athleticism to make up for that. And they're really counting on Santos to anchor the linebacking corps.