Indispensable player: Arizona

July, 5, 2011
7/05/11
9:00
AM ET
See your team in your mind's eye -- 24 starters, including specialists.

If you could put an absolute halo of safety -- perhaps a girdle of indestructibility? -- around just one, who would it be?

We're rating each team's most indispensable player. And when the choice is too obvious -- say, Stanford -- we'll try to offer a second choice.

Up first: Arizona.

DT Justin Washington

You felt certain this would be Nick Foles, didn't you? And the uncertain status of receiver Juron Criner easily volunteers him as a possibility, too. But Arizona may have the best backup quarterback in the conference in Matt Scott, and it also is very deep at receiver. Instead, we think losing Washington would leave a huge void in the Wildcats' defensive line and entire defense. Start with this: Without Washington, the Wildcats would be without any returning starters on their D-line. Second, backup tackle Willie Mobley blew out his knee playing basketball, so the position already has taken a hit. The other first-team DT, Sione Tuihalamaka, is a solid player, but he had just 23 tackles last year. Washington was a force as a true freshman early in the season until he got banged up. He finished with 11.5 tackles for a loss, which was second on the team. Finally, the Wildcats already have lost two returning defensive starters to knee injuries -- two of their best players, in fact -- in linebacker Jake Fischer and safety Adam Hall. Losing Washington would be a hit not only in terms of production, it also would be demoralizing for the unit.

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