Over the next two weeks, we will be examining the most indispensable player for every team in the Big 12. In other words, 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 below with the Kansas Jayhawks.
Most indispensable player: Linebacker Courtney Arnick
2014 stats: 45 tackles, four tackles for loss, one sack
Why KU can’t afford to lose him: A KU defense that needs playmakers is likely to lean heavily on Arnick, particularly with the recent retirement of Jake Love and the departure of Ben Heeney. As one of the top returning tacklers on the roster, the junior should help replace the production of Love and Heeney, who combined to make 180 tackles in 2014.
After playing a complementary role a year ago, Arnick needs to become a core player in KU’s defense this fall. One of the few experienced players on the defense, Arnick can be an impact player as a run or pass defender.
Kyron Watson and Schyler Miles are among the other KU linebackers who will need to help fill the void left by Heeney and Love but neither provide the versatility and experience of Arnick. Defensive end Ben Goodman and safety Fish Smithson could join Arnick as key players but as a part of the second-level of the defense, Arnick could become a critical piece in Clint Bowen's defense.
Several players could be important to David Beaty in his first season at the helm at KU but the losses at linebacker could spring Arnick into the spotlight this fall.