Now that spring practice is over, we're examining the most indispensable players on each Big Ten team for the 2013 season.
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 shot out of a cannon. 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: Iowa
Brandon Scherff, OT, Jr.
Maybe offensive coordinator Greg Davis will surprise us and call 40 passes a game with an unproven quarterback. It's more likely Iowa relies on its running attack and -- hope AIRBHG isn't reading -- a good stable of backs led by Mark Weisman. That's where Scherff comes in. He's the team's best lineman and a guy who has the potential to follow recent Hawkeyes star tackles like Bryan Bulaga and Riley Reiff. Iowa's offense already had problems before Scherff suffered a gruesome injury last October against Penn State, but without Scherff -- and fellow lineman Andrew Donnal, who got hurt two plays later -- the unit had no chance. Not only does Scherff provide blindside protection for the Hawkeyes' new signal-caller, but he'll be instrumental in sparking a run game that showed potential when the backs were healthy in 2012. Iowa is very young at tackle behind Scherff and Brett Van Sloten, and it can't afford to lose No. 68 again.
B.J. Lowery, CB, Sr.
Some might expect to see a linebacker here, as Iowa returns starters James Morris, Anthony Hitchens and Christian Kirksey. But the Hawkeyes have strength in numbers with their defensive midsection, and if one player were to go down, the others are there to pick up the slack. Iowa doesn't enjoy the same type of depth at cornerback, especially after losing Micah Hyde, the 2012 Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year and a fifth-round pick in last month's NFL draft. After recording 50 tackles and an interception last season, Lowery capped a strong spring with an interception and three pass breakups in Iowa's spring game. Head coach Kirk Ferentz said the team's quarterbacks avoided throwing toward Lowery in practices, and he showed why in the scrimmage. Iowa has some questions at the other cornerback spot and not much overall depth at the position, so it needs to keep Lowery on the field this fall.