These are the players that Big 12 teams can't afford to lose

July, 23, 2009
7/23/09
7:44
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

It's impossible to overstate the value of the Big 12's most valuable players. The loss of a key player like Colt McCoy or Sam Bradford could spell catastrophic results for their teams if they miss a large part of their season.

But some teams are better suited for the loss of key players because of strong backups at those positions.

With those ideas in mind, here are the most indispensable players on each Big 12 team and a reason why I feel their loss would be so grievous for their teams.


Baylor: QB Robert Griffin. They don't call him "The Franchise" around Waco without reason. Even with Blake Szymanski behind him, the Bears would have little hope of even thinking about a bowl berth without Griffin in place.

Colorado: LB Jeff Smart. The Buffaloes could withstand the loss of a quarterback like Cody Hawkins or a running back like Darrell Scott because of the depth at those positions. But the Buffaloes would be hard-pressed to replace Smart, considering their lack of senior leadership on the defense.

Iowa State: QB Austen Arnaud. Redshirt freshman quarterback Jerome Tiller showed flashes in the spring, but that was against the Iowa State defense. Arnaud's abilities as a runner and thrower and his experience would be a difficult hole for the Cyclones to fill.

Kansas: WR Dezmon Briscoe. Quarterback Todd Reesing would be a huge loss, but the Jayhawks could always slide Kerry Meier back to quarterback if they needed to. Briscoe would be a different matter. He's the Jayhawks' top big-play threat and could be even more valuable this season if he develops into a kick returner.

Kansas State: WR Brandon Banks. The Wildcats have several quarterbacks they could turn to. They might have trouble replacing top pass-rushing threat Brandon Harold, but Banks would be the biggest loss. He's KSU's best multi-purpose threat as a runner and a receiver and a strong kick and punt returner to boot. And he might be even more valuable this season if Coach Bill Snyder follows through with plans to use him in a "Wildcat" role.

Missouri: LB Sean Weatherspoon. Top rushing threat Derrick Washington would be a big loss, but the Tigers' defense gets a lot of its swagger from Weatherspoon. He's their spiritual leader after leading the team in tackles and sharing the team lead in interceptions last season. His loss would have catastrophic consequences for the Tigers.

Nebraska: DT Ndamukong Suh. Losing "Big Suh" would have big drawbacks for the Cornhuskers. He will key the Big 12 North's best defensive line and could be an Outland Trophy candidate with a productive senior season.

Oklahoma: QB Sam Bradford. With only Landry Jones, John Nimmo and Ben Sherrard behind him, the loss of the Heisman Trophy winner would be a huge loss for the Sooners. The offense would sputter significantly without Bradford.

Oklahoma State: WR Dez Bryant. Remember the second half of the Holiday Bowl? Mike Gundy and the Cowboys do. Oklahoma State became one-dimensional when Bryant was hurt and missed most of the second half against Oregon. An extended loss of Bryant would strip the Cowboys of their best deep threat and top punt return threat.

Texas: QB Colt McCoy. Garrett Gilbert will be a fine quarterback one day, but he's not ready right now. Mack Brown could turn to Sherrod Harris or John Chiles in a pinch if McCoy went down, but it wouldn't be the same. The Longhorns' hopes of claiming their first Big 12 title since 2005 depend on keeping McCoy healthy.

Texas A&M: WR Jeff Fuller. If quarterback Jerrod Johnson went down with an injury, Coach Mike Sherman could always turn to Ryan Tannehill. He doesn't have those options behind Fuller, the Aggies' top deep threat. If Fuller plays like he did during the spring, he could develop into one of the league's best receivers. If he was to get hurt, the Aggies would have little hope of escaping the South Division cellar.

Texas Tech: QB Taylor Potts. Tech's new quarterback has never started a game before, but he's earned the starting job before camp ever began - a rarity in the Mike Leach era. With  Seth Doege, Steven Sheffield and Garrett Riley behind him, there would be a huge drop if Potts misses significant action.

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