Now that spring practice is over, we're examining 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. 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. Up next: Ohio State.
Braxton Miller, QB, Jr.
Were you expecting someone else? As much as Urban Meyer raves about backup quarterback Kenny Guiton, Miller will shape Ohio State's season more than any other player. He carried the offense at times in 2012 and won Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year honors, finishing fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting. Miller accounted for more than 65 percent of Ohio State's total offense in 2012 and 28 of the team's 54 touchdowns. He should be even better, especially in the pass game, after another full offseason under Urban Meyer and his staff. Ohio State still would be a good team without Miller, but it wouldn't be a national title contender if he goes down.
Ryan Shazier, LB, Jr.
Ohio State has no shortage of spots to fill in the defensive front seven, but the Buckeyes can rely on Shazier, a first-team All-Big Ten selection (media) who had a breakout season in 2012. He emerged as one of the Big Ten's top defensive playmakers, recording 17 tackles for loss, five sacks, three forced fumbles, 11 pass breakups and an interception. Although Ohio State must replace all four starting defensive linemen from a 12-0 team, a bigger concern could be linebacker as the Buckeyes must build around Shazier. Without him, the defense could be in major trouble not only against the run but the pass, where Shazier thrived at times last season. Perhaps Curtis Grant finally blossoms or younger players like Joshua Perry emerge, but Ohio State really needs to keep Shazier on the field this fall.