Summer's almost here, but we're still looking forward to the fall. Today, we begin a series looking 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/eaten by a bear, 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. Let's start with the defending league champs, Michigan State:
Connor Cook, QB, Jr.
The Spartans are not without options at quarterback. Tyler O'Connor should be a capable backup after seeing some action early last season, and the bubble wrap is coming off multitalented redshirt freshman Damion Terry. Still, Michigan State's quarterback situation was a mess before Cook grabbed hold of it in the middle of last year, and if he needed to be replaced, the entire offense could suffer the same fate we saw in the 2012 season. The 2013 Big Ten championship game and Rose Bowl MVP entered this offseason riding a wave of confidence and should be one of the league's top quarterbacks.
Trae Waynes, CB, Jr.
There are a lot of other players we could have picked for this second spot, including star defensive end Shilique Calhoun and running back Jeremy Langford. Losing Calhoun would obviously be a very difficult blow for the Spartans, but they still would have Marcus Rush at the other end spot, plus some promising young players such as Demetrius Cooper. Similarly, Langford's production would be tough to replace, but Michigan State usually finds a way to get it done in the running game and has some other options behind him. Waynes is the pick here because of the youth and inexperience behind him at the cornerback spot. Sophomore Darian Hicks and junior Arjen Colquhoun are battling it out for the other corner spot this offseason, but neither has proved much on the field. Pat Narduzzi's defense works best when it has a lockdown cover corner, and Waynes could be that guy this year.