Most indispensable player: West Virginia

We'll start a new series today looking at the player each Big 12 team's most indispensable player. He's they guy they can least afford to lose and the guy to whom an injury or departure would have the most effect.

Let's get started with West Virginia.

Most indispensable player: S Karl Joseph

West Virginia's sort of an interesting case here, because the Mountaineers lack a huge game-changer, but have a lot of depth and decent players at the offensive skill positions. You've got to look to a more experienced defense, even though it struggled last season.

I'm taking the guy with the most raw talent and the most impact on what should be an improved unit in 2013. Joseph broke out as a true freshman last year, though his efforts were overshadowed by the unit's struggles as a whole. If they want to take big steps forward in 2013, Joseph is going to be the guy making it happen. He was all over the field last year, leading the team with 102 tackles (76 solo) and added seven tackles for loss, the most of any returning player. WVU simply doesn't have another safety on its roster who can make those kinds of plays in bulk, and doesn't have a player with his kind of speed, size and instinct.

That definitely makes him indispensable. I do think WVU's defense will be a bit better this year as they adjust to the schemes and tempo of Big 12 offenses which just didn't exist in the Big East. It can't make much of a move without Joseph, though. The 5-foot-10, 200-pounder was overshadowed by bigger names like Texas' Kenny Vaccaro and Oklahoma's Tony Jefferson last year, but he'll be likely to earn a status as the Big 12's best safety in 2013.