Now that spring practice is over, we're starting a new series 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 or suspended or joined the circus. It 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. Next up: Indiana.
Jason Spriggs, LT, So.
Spriggs stepped into the fire as a true freshman at arguably the most important offensive line position and held his own last season. Although Indiana had plenty of youth up front in 2012, the line excelled in pass protection, allowing just one sack every 31.8 pass attempts and finishing 33rd nationally in sacks allowed per game (1.42). Spriggs, who protected the blind side of all three IU quarterbacks, led the team with 80 knockdowns and allowed just two sacks in 961 snaps. Spriggs and guard Dan Feeney both set a team record by starting all 12 games as true freshmen. Both earned freshman All-America honors and honorable mention All-Big Ten honors. Feeney certainly could be here, too, but Spriggs played such a big role in pass protection. He would be a major loss for Indiana, which is relying on Spriggs and Feeney to form the foundation of the offensive line for years to come.
Greg Heban, S, Sr.
The Hoosiers' long-suffering defense will improve as younger, more talented players enter the program through upgrades in recruiting. But every unit needs some veteran leadership, and Heban provides it and much more from the safety position. Indiana loses significant pieces along the line, and while linebacker David Cooper could prove to be indispensable, the defense really needs Heban to stay on the field. He has started 22 games the past two seasons and last fall led Big Ten defensive backs in tackles per game (7.6), while tying for fifth in interceptions (3) and tying for 11th in passes defended (11). He's a natural playmaker for a secondary and a defense that still lacks them. Heban also can play safety, corner or the nickel spot. Indiana should have better overall depth on defense this season, but it can't afford to lose No. 9.