- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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Let's dive back into our series looking at the most indispensable players on each Big Ten squad entering the 2012 season. Once again, this is not necessarily a listing of the best players on each team, but ones whose absence would be toughest to absorb because of their particular value or a lack of depth behind them.
We'll select two players from each Big Ten team, usually one on offense and one on defense, but not always. Your move, Michigan State Spartans.
Andrew Maxwell, QB, Jr.
Well, here's an unusual choice, as Maxwell has never started a game. But he has enormous value as a quarterback who is entering his fourth year in the system and who has been groomed for this job. Without Maxwell, Michigan State would have to turn to redshirt freshman Connor Cook, and the depth at the position would be annihilated. Cook took over for the last part of spring practice while Maxwell dealt with a knee injury and showed it wouldn't be the end of the world if he had to run the show. But the Spartans' offense wouldn't be the same without the more veteran quarterback, and it would place the entire team in a precarious position if he weren't available.
William Gholston, DE, Jr.
I actually struggled with whom to select on defense, as there are many viable candidates. Middle linebacker Max Bullough is a terrific leader, and while there are lots of good players at the outside linebacker spots for the Spartans, I don't know that they have one with the size and skill of Bullough to captain the defense. Cornerback Johnny Adams is also incredibly valuable because if his experience and ability to both cover receivers and provide run and blitz support. But Michigan State's defense is deep and likely could absorb the loss of any one player. The exception may be Gholston. Although there are other capable defensive ends on the depth chart, there are few players in the country quite like Gholston, a 6-foot-7 athletic freak who can dominate at times. If he takes the next step in his development this year as expected, then he can be an elite player who brings the whole defense up a level. That makes him indispensable.