We're moving on in our series pegging the single player each team in the Big 12 can't afford to lose. He's also the player who will be most responsible for the team's ultimate success.
Next up: The Kansas Jayhawks
Most indispensable player: QB Dayne Crist
2011 stats: Completed 15-of-24 passes for 164 yards and an interception.
Why Kansas can't afford to lose him: It's kind of crazy to put a man on this list who wasn't even on the team last year, but that's almost the biggest reason why he should be the team's most indispensable player. He wasn't on the team last year ... and Kansas went 2-10.
It's amazing how much better a team looks when it has a prototype at quarterback, especially in the Big 12. We haven't seen Crist take the field in Lawrence yet, but he already offers a major upgrade for the offense. Even if he's not a world-beater, it's painfully clear that if KU loses him, it's headed for disaster once again. Fellow transfer Jake Heaps is sitting out this season, and the team's backups, Blake Jablonski and Michael Cummings, completed just 3-of-10 passes for 19 yards in the spring game. A small sample size, sure, but a sign of what would be to come. Juco transfer Turner Baty is joining the team this summer, but asking him to take the reins this soon is probably asking too much.
New coach Charlie Weis lauded his receiving corps this offseason, but without a man to get them the ball, it's going to be a lost cause. Kansas didn't have that last year. It's different now. Crist is the guy to make it happen. His teammates recognize it, too, electing him a captain after the spring, despite not joining the team until just a few months earlier.
The bar is low for the Jayhawks, but Crist could be a big part of a pigskin rebirth in Lawrence, laying the foundation for Heaps to help carry Weis and KU back into the postseason. It all begins now, though, and KU has a guy with all the tools to help them learn how to win.