Most indispensable player: Oklahoma State
Next up, the Oklahoma State Cowboys. Find more indispensable players here.
Most indispensable player: RB Joseph Randle
2011 stats: 208 carries, 1,216 yards, 24 TD. Averaged 5.85 yards per carry. Caught 43 passes for 266 yards and two touchdowns.
Why Oklahoma State can't afford to lose him: Jeremy Smith and Randle balance each other out quite well, but color me skeptical that Smith could duplicate Randle's kind of production if he were injured or not on the team. Talented youngster Herschel Sims is itching for carries, too, but he's more in the mold of a low-centered, physical grinder like Maurice Jones-Drew. Randle's the biggest home run hitter the team has, and assures that defenses can't key in on an offense that isn't shy about admitting it's pass-first.
Randle's role is especially important this year with Wes Lunt, a true freshman at quarterback. Look for OSU to lean a little bit more on the run, especially early in the season. Lunt is capable, but he doesn't have the experience, accuracy or arm strength of Brandon Weeden just yet. Randle's been on the field for two seasons and carried a huge load last year, ranking second in the Big 12 in rushing touchdowns. He'll be a stabilizing force on an offense that may need one with so much inexperience at quarterback and receiver.
Additionally, Randle's aptitude in the passing game will be a valuable outlet for Lunt. Early in games, getting him some easy throws to get in rhythm and feeling comfortable in the pocket will be huge. Look for more bubble screens, and Randle to be the recipient.
This is still a pass-first offense, but without Randle the offense wouldn't be nearly as effective, no matter what came first.
103.3 FM ESPN PODCASTS
Play Podcast Kirk Herbstreit joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss Bob Stoops' recent comments about the SEC and the pending college football playoff, what appears to be an unpredictable Big 12 in 2013, how the Aggies will handle expectations and more.
Play Podcast Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin talks about the improvements being made to Kyle Field, what those improvements will to for the program, the success of last year, Johnny Manziel's offseason and the expectations for the Aggies in 2013.
Play Podcast Scott Van Pelt and Ryen Russillo talk about Texas A&M's decision to expand its stadium and say although the Aggies had a fantastic year, the school must also be careful not to overextend its resources based on a single hot stretch.
Play Podcast Baylor head coach Art Briles joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss what kind of player the Cowboys are getting in Terrance Williams.
Play Podcast Arlington and Texas A&M product Luke Joeckel, the potential No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft, joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Richard Durrett to discuss the draft, coaches and advice from his dad.
Play Podcast Florida Gulf Coast athletic director Ken Kavanagh joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss his school's Cinderella story and playing in the Sweet 16 at Cowboys Stadium.
Play Podcast Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby joins Fizsimmons & Durrett to discuss Cowboys Stadium as a venue, the state of Big 12 basketball, the new 2014 college football format, why there's no hurry to have a Big 12 football championship and much more.
Play Podcast Jay Bilas joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the remaining 16 teams in the NCAA tournament, the intrigue surrounding the Northwest Region and the excitement over FGCU, even though a similar story happens every year.