There are keystones on every Big Ten roster. Though there are no one-man shows in football, these are players who change expectations for a team and could potentially reroute a season if they aren’t able to take the field.
This week, the Big Ten blog is identifying the most indispensable player in each locker room around the league for the upcoming season. Whether it’s their individual talent, their importance in a team’s scheme or the lack of depth behind them, these are the guys teams can’t afford to lose. Up next: Minnesota.
Most indispensable player: QB Mitch Leidner
It's pretty obvious to pick a quarterback here, and Minnesota has some very valuable defensive players, including defensive backs Jalen Myrick and Damarius Travis. But it's hard to deny the experience and leadership Leidner brings, not to mention the dearth of those traits behind him.
Golden Gophers fans have made it a near-weekly rite of fall to criticize Leidner and wonder if someone will replace him under center. Leidner showed growth last season, however, setting career highs in completion percentage (59.5), passing yards (2,701) and touchdowns (14). He threw for 317 yards against Michigan and 281 versus Ohio State. In the Quick Lane Bowl against Central Michigan, Leidner went 24-for-30 for 223 yards and a touchdown while playing on one healthy foot.
He has been one of the team's top leaders since the day he walked on campus, and Leidner is now a fifth-year senior with 35 starts under his belt. With Leidner mostly sidelined this spring following foot surgery, his backups got a chance to gain reps and experience. Perhaps one day soon it will be time for sophomore Demry Croft or freshman Seth Green to run the show.
But Minnesota should hope that day can wait. Because Leidner will be one of the most experienced quarterbacks in the Big Ten this fall, and he'll be virtually irreplaceable for the Gophers.