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Most indispensable player: Kansas Jayhawks

For the next two weeks, we're taking a look at one player each Big 12 team can't live without. Here are the players we consider the most indispensable heading into 2016. We begin this series today with the Kansas Jayhawks.

Most indispensable: Safety Fish Smithson

It’s not uncommon for Kansas to have one of the Big 12’s most productive defensive stars. Smithson, the Big 12’s leading tackler in 2015 with 111 stops in 11 games, is next in line.

Not only does he have one of the best names in the conference, Smithson is one of the Big 12’s most consistent players. He had double-digit tackles in eight of 11 games, including each of the final six games he played in 2015. The Baltimore native's junior season was a big improvement after a solid sophomore campaign (49 tackles).

This season he will be a key piece for the Jayhawks defense. With Smithson providing experience and dependability in the back, Kansas has a proven playmaker to build around. The Jayhawks have a combination of defenders with experience and talented unknowns looking to prove themselves in the secondary. Smithson should provide those players a rock to count on as they learn and grow as well as a vocal leader to turn to as a tone-setter.

The Jayhawks have three other senior safeties in Greg Allen, Bazie Bates IV and Tevin Shaw, but no player at the position can replace Smithson’s combination of experience, leadership and productivity. Smithson also could end up playing a critical role as a mentor to Tyrone Miller Jr., who is making the shift to safety after a productive true freshman season at cornerback.

David Beaty is in the process of building Kansas’ roster, meaning the Jayhawks aren’t overflowing with playmakers who are impossible to replace. Yet Smithson is one of them. And his active playmaking should combine with his leadership to make him the foundation of Kansas' defense and the Jayhawks' most indispensable player in 2016.