There are keystones on every Big Ten roster. Though there are no one-man shows in football, these are the players that change expectations for a team and could potentially reroute a season if they aren’t able to take the field.
This week the Big Ten blog is identifying the most indispensable player in each locker room around the league for the upcoming season. Whether it’s their individual talent, their importance in a team’s scheme or the lack of depth behind them, these are the guys that teams can’t afford to lose. Next up is Indiana.
OL Dan Feeney: Indiana’s offensive line remains the essential and often under-appreciated engine of the Hoosiers' prolific offense. The line has paved the way for three 1,000-yard rushers in the past two years, including record-setter Tevin Coleman in 2014. Feeney, who landed on multiple All-America teams last season, has been a cog during both of those years.
The fifth-year senior’s decision to pass up a spot in the NFL draft gives the Hoosiers a stabilizing force up front after losing fellow All-American Jason Spriggs at left tackle and starting center Jake Reed. Though it’s hard to track individual stats for a guard, the general consensus is that Feeney has allowed a total of one sack while starting every game over the past three seasons. As far as talent and NFL potential go, no one in Bloomington is better.
The backfield duo of running back Devine Redding and (most likely) quarterback Richard Lagow are important pieces to Indiana’s success, but haven’t reached irreplaceable status yet. Indiana’s offensive line has helped make several backs feels comfortable with the ball in their hands, and underclassmen Mike Majette and Alex Rodriguez are almost carbon copies of Redding on paper. It would be unfair to call Lagow, a junior college transfer, indispensable before he ever takes a snap or locks up the starting job.
The rest of the Indiana offensive line is not lacking in experience. Even without Feeney, two starters return and several others saw game action for a 2015 team that averaged 210 rushing yards per game. Losing Feeney, though, would strip the offense of a two-time captain and its most talented player. That could be enough to derail the line and therefore slow down the entire offense on a team that will still need to rely on scoring a lot of points to win games this fall.