The Big East's most indispensable players

April, 7, 2010
4/07/10
4:15
PM ET
In the last two days, we've seen a couple of players -- Demetrius Jones from Cincinnati and Leslie Stirrups from South Florida -- get their official exodus from their respective programs.

Neither is an essential player, but it got me to thinking about which individuals that each Big East team could least afford to lose, via an injury or suspension, this spring. While hoping this doesn't serve as some sort of voodoo jinx, here is the list I came up with. Some of them are obvious choices, while others may surprise you a bit.

Cincinnati: Derek Wolfe, DT. The Bearcats are loaded at the offensive positions and could plug Chazz Anderson in for Zach Collaros and still be OK. But Wolfe is the only guy who looks like he can be a dominant run-stuffer in the middle of the defensive line. His absence would have a major negative impact on the defense.

Connecticut: Lawrence Wilson, LB. This is a tough call, because UConn is not a star-driven team and the Huskies have depth at most spots. But even though the defense made do without Scott Lutrus for long stretches last season, I think it needs a really athletic guy to run around and make plays at that spot. And Wilson, who led the Big East in tackles a year ago, is that guy.

Louisville: Johnny Patrick, CB. Simply put, the Cardinals don't have a lot of strong options in the defensive backfield, which is why running back Darius Ashley is getting a look at corner now. Patrick is the team's most experienced player there and has developed into a standout corner. Without him, the team could really be hurting.

Pittsburgh: Dom DeCicco, SS. Like UConn, this one was a tough call. I thought about Jonathan Baldwin, because his playmaking ability is irreplaceable. But Pitt has other receivers. Jason Pinkston at left tackle is another candidate. I settled on DeCicco because the Panthers are thin at safety, and losing a veteran player back there would cause them to have to mix and match.

Rutgers: Tom Savage, QB. This one is pretty obvious. The Scarlet Knights have only Steve Shimko behind Savage, and he's the heart of the team right now. He's got to stay healthy.

South Florida: B.J. Daniels, QB. See Savage, Tom. The Bulls are already in scramble mode this spring because of Daniels' shoulder injury. He has nothing but walk-ons behind him right now.

Syracuse: Derrell Smith, LB. Smith was excellent in 10 games before getting hurt last year, and his leadership in the middle of the linebacking corps is vital for the Orange defense to excel.

West Virginia: Chris Neild, DT. Geno Smith would be the obvious pick, as the Mountaineers lack depth at quarterback. However, I think they could make up a little bit for his loss with some combination of Coley White, Bradley Starks and the two incoming freshmen, Barry Brunetti and Jeremy Johnson. It's not like Smith has a lot of experience now, either. On the other hand, the Mountaineers don't have anybody like Neild, who can occupy two offensive linemen as the nose guard on the three-man defensive front. That D-line is thin and inexperienced as is, and losing Neild could be catastrophic.

Which players do you think are the most indispensable to their teams?

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