Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Big Ten [Print without images]

Tuesday, May 8, 2012
Most indispensable players: Michigan

By Brian Bennett

Time to jump back into our series looking at the most indispensable players on each Big Ten team. 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're selecting two players from each Big Ten squad, usually one on offense and one on defense, but not always. Today we turn our attention to the Michigan Wolverines:

OT Taylor Lewan, Jr.

That's right -- gasp, we're not picking Denard Robinson here. While it's true that Robinson is a special talent, one who can win games that seem lost, we think Michigan's offense could still operate at a decently high level without him, whether that means plugging in Devin Gardner or going with backup Russell Bellomy. Yes, maybe both lack the je nais se quoi of Shoelace, but the Wolverines would still have Fitz Toussaint to carry the ball. Replacing left tackle Lewan, however, is another story entirely. Not only is he potentially one of the best offensive linemen in the country, but Michigan doesn't have much depth on the offensive line. Losing their blind-side protector would not only hurt at that spot but also cause some discomfort from shifting others into unfamiliar positions. That's why we judge him the most indispensable player on Al Borges' offense this season.

Jordan Kovacs, S, Sr.

Here's another instance where maybe some other players on his side of the ball are bigger stars -- guys like Craig Roh, for instance, or possibly Blake Countess and J.T. Floyd in the same secondary. But Kovacs is the quarterback of the defense and a guy who has a knack for making big plays last year. He's the team's second-leading returning tackler, with 75 stops last season. And maybe most importantly, he brings senior leadership to a group looking to replace some very valuable leaders off last year's team. Add it all up, and that makes Kovacs indispensable.