I’m never averse to, well, ripping off a good idea for a blog post — especially in July.
So I figured I’d do my own take on a series that ESPN.com is currently running, naming what it views as the Most Indispensable Players for each college football team. Simply put, it means the players the team can least ill afford to lose for any significant period of time.
But instead of naming just one, I’ll go them a little better and name the five Most Indispensable Players on the UW roster for 2011, in ascending order.
5, Cort Dennison: He may not be as physically gifted as the players who have been the leaders of the linebacking corps in recent years — Donald Butler and Mason Foster. But given the overall youth of the rest of the linebacking corps, his value to the unit this year may be even greater. Dennison has already become a valued team leader on and off the field, and this year stands as the only linebacker who has any significant playing time. Having him stay upright in the middle all season is critical.
4, Desmond Trufant: This could maybe be a combined entry with fellow cornerback Quinton Richardson. Each is an undisputed starter with basically two years of starting experinence — experience that should allow UW to be a little more varied and aggressive with its defensive calls this season. But like at linebacker, the depth gets thin quickly, with little experience behind either Trufant or Richardson, each of whom were standouts in the spring.
3, Senio Kelemete: Returning starting left tackles are always valuable, and Kelemete is now a three-year starter overall on the offensive line. Kelemete’s value may be even a little greater than just his position, however, given his overall leadership — he’s been elected a team captain each of the past two years — and the youth of the offensive line. It was no coincidence that the OL seemed to struggle even moreso in the spring during the time that Kelemete was sidelined with a foot injury. The good news is he should be healthy for the start of camp.
2, Alameda Ta’amu: Ta’amu may be UW’s most talented defensive player this season at a particularly valued position — defensive tackle, specifically nose tackle. Ta’amu is projected by many as a potential first-rounder if he can consistently perform in 2011 the way he did the last two games of 2010, particularly in the Holiday Bowl. And this is another spot where depth is thin, especially if some of the injured guys (Chris Robinson, Semisi Tokolahi) don’t make it back (no definitive word yet on the situation for either player).
1, Chris Polk: Usually, you’d have a quarterback on this list. But obviously, UW is starting over at that spot this season with Keith Price. And the real key to easing Price’s learning curve this year will be Polk (pictured above in a Dean Rutz photo), who gained 1,415 yards last season and figures to be the player that the offense will revolve around in 2011. If Polk can pick up where he left off in 2010 — obviously, not necessarily 284 yards a game, but able to carry it 22-26 times a game successfully — it will make life that much easier for Price and open up the passing game. UW does have some depth at the running back spot. But none of it is as yet proven as Polk — either in productivity or durability. Much of the success for this season rests in the ability of the running game to be as effective as it was the last four games of 2010 — and that rests largely on the broad shoulders of Polk.