First off, quarterbacks are excluded to make things more interesting. It goes without saying, for example, that Marcus Mariota is Oregon's most important player.
And most important doesn't necessarily have to be "best." An All-American's backup can be pretty darn good, too. USC's Leonard Williams might be the best defensive lineman in the nation, but is he the Trojans' most important player considering their talent and depth on the D-line?
Our most important guys are players who could swing a win total one way or the other, based on their living up to expectations. Or their absence.
2013 production: 71 tackles, 5.5 tackles for a loss, 3 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles
Arizona State coach Todd Graham will rely on Damarious Randall to be his leader on defense.
Why Randall is so important: When it comes to the secondary, he’s the only guy who can really provide an experience factor for ASU. When the Sun Devils came out with their post-spring depth chart, they listed the other three defensive back starters as Rashad Wadood, Lloyd Carrington and Marcus Ball/Jordan Simone. Those four players have combined for one start -- not exactly the most encouraging statistic for a team that allowed 13.2 yards per catch in 2013.
But Randall isn’t just the guy for the ASU secondary. He’s the guy for the entire defense. He’s the best player in a rebuilding defense, and if the Sun Devils want to take a step forward in 2014, Randall will be at the front of that charge.
He finished the 2013 season as the team’s third-leading tackler (71) and could see his number called more in critical situations this fall given his knowledge of the ASU defensive scheme.
But where he’ll need to step up for the team is in his ability to create turnovers. Randall forced two of ASU’s 14 fumbles in 2013, but the Sun Devils lost four players who forced eight combined fumbles, which means someone needs to pick up that slack.