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Monday, May 20, 2013
Most indispensable players: Penn State

By Adam Rittenberg

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 sent on a goodwill mission to North Korea. 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: the Penn State Nittany Lions.

Allen Robinson, WR, Jr. 

The biggest reason not to panic about Penn State's quarterback situation is the supporting cast that will surround unproven options Tyler Ferguson or Christian Hackenberg. Penn State has excellent depth at tight end and solid depth at running back, but there are question marks at receiver behind Robinson, who won the Big Ten's Richter-Howard Receiver of the Year award last season. Robinson emerged as the league's most dynamic and dependable pass-catching option as a sophomore, recording 77 receptions for 1,013 yards and 11 touchdowns. He had five or more receptions in 10 of 12 games and nine or more receptions in four contests. Robinson formed tremendous chemistry with Matt McGloin, especially in the red zone, and Penn State's new starting quarterback undoubtedly will be helped when No. 8 is on the field. Although the Lions have some other potentially good options at receiver, Robinson is proven and would be missed if he isn't out there.

Mike Hull, LB, Jr. 

It's rare when a player who didn't start in 2012 earns the "most indispensable" table, but Penn State fans won't be surprised to see Hull's name here. He essentially served as the Lions' fourth starting linebacker in 2012, recording 58 tackles, four sacks, two fumble recoveries, an interception and a blocked kick. Hull stood out on special teams and showed his natural playmaking ability throughout the season. Not only does he move into a featured role this fall, but he does so at a position where Penn State lacks depth after losing All-Big Ten selections Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges. Although returning starter Glenn Carson is back, and hopes are high for Nyeem Wartman, Penn State needs big things from Hull to solidify the middle of the defense. Hull could be an All-Big Ten-caliber player this season, and if Penn State loses him, the defense could take a step back.

More indispensable:

Michigan State
Ohio State