With spring practice over, we're looking at the most indispensable players on each Big Ten team. Not necessarily the best players, but those who would be hardest to replace because of their value to the team or because of a lack of depth at their position.
We're picking two players from each team, usually offense and defense but not always. Let's turn our attention to the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
RB Rex Burkhead, Sr.
Losing quarterback Taylor Martinez would be a huge blow for the Huskers, but I still think the offense would find ways to be productive with its ground game. I'm not sure if the same would be true without Burkhead, who ran for 1,357 yards and 15 touchdowns last year. Ameer Abdullah hasn't proved that he can be an every-down back yet, and Aaron Green's transfer thinned what was once enviable depth in the Nebraska backfield. Incoming freshman Imani Cross could help, but he is a freshman. Plus, Burkhead brings such a tough-minded mentality to the team that his value is hard to quantify. Let's just say he is an indispensable part of the Cornhuskers' Big Ten title hopes.
LB Will Compton, Sr.
Compton came on strong down the stretch last season, finishing second on the team with 77 tackles. Lavonte David rightly got all the headlines at linebacker, but Compton provided a nice complement and quarterbacked the defense. With David now off to the NFL, it's up to this fifth-year senior to lead a position otherwise filled with question marks. Compton drew strong reviews for his play this spring and is expected to be a leader in the locker room for the Blackshirts. While other defensive players like Cameron Meredith and Baker Steinkuhler will be key figures, Compton looks like the hardest one to replace.