Welcome to June. The 2014 college football season is just a little bit closer. With that in mind, we're 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/suspended/fell through a moon door, etc. 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. Today, we examine Purdue.
OK. We know what you're going to say the second you see the headline of this post. How can anyone be indispensable for a team that went 1-11 last season and was historically bad on both sides of the ball? A fair point, and it's not like Darrell Hazell's team is oozing with irreplaceable superstars in Year 2. Still, losing some players would hurt much more than others. Case in point: Kugler. He may not be one of the more recognizable names in the Big Ten, but he was named Purdue's offensive MVP for the 2013 season. The Boilermakers also lost four seniors off last season's offensive line and are replacing both starting tackles. They will be counting on juco transfers David Hedelin and Corey Clements to contribute right away. Even if that goes smoothly, they will need veteran leadership on the unit, and Kugler is just the man to provide it.
Ryan Russell, DE
The Purdue defense had a serious lack of playmakers last season, and it lost two of its best ones in cornerback Ricardo Allen and tackle Bruce Gaston. So there are major question marks for Greg Hudson's defense at several positions going into 2014. Russell has looked like a star-in-the-making for quite some time, with his ideal blend of size and quickness at the end position. But he hasn't yet put it all together, disappearing for long stretches. Still, the senior is one of the most experienced players in the program, and the potential remains there for a breakout season. Purdue needs him to lead the way for younger players on the line like Ra'Zahn Howard, Evan Panfil, Gelen Robinson and Kentucky transfer Langston Newton.