Welcome to June. The 2014 college football season is just a little bit closer. With that in mind, we're 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/ran away with the circus, 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. The Ohio State Buckeyes are up next in the rundown.
Braxton Miller, QB, senior
This might be the most obvious choice in the league. It's not just that Miller owns more accolades than any Big Ten standout, winning the league's offensive player of the year award in each of the past two seasons. Or that he boasts 8,346 career offensive yards with 84 touchdowns. Ohio State's new-look offensive line and the departure of battering-ram running back Carlos Hyde puts even more of an emphasis on the quarterback position. While reserves Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett are still developing, spring practice showed that neither is ready to take over and provide the threat Miller does every time he touches the football. There's no Kenny G on the roster. If Ohio State had last year's offensive line, Hyde back in the fold and a few more certainties at receiver, Miller's presence might not be quite as critical. But if he's not out there when the season rolls around, Ohio State immediately falls from the ranks of playoff contenders.
Doran Grant, CB, junior
I considered putting offensive tackle Taylor Decker or one of the returning linebackers, but Ohio State's secondary is the group undoubtedly in the spotlight when the season kicks off. The departures of cornerback Bradley Roby and safety C.J. Barnett leave Grant as the only full-time starter back from the 2013 team. Grant is Ohio State's only returning defender to start in all 14 games last season, and he recorded 58 tackles, three interceptions, 10 pass breakups, a forced fumble and a blocked kick. He moves into Roby's role on the boundary and will cover the top opposing wideouts this season. New co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash identified Grant and safety Tyvis Powell as two obvious leaders coming out of the spring. Although Ohio State has several young, talented defensive backs, Grant's presence looms large as the secondary tries to rebound this year.