There's little doubt that Saquon Barkley will have the largest spotlight on him among any of his Nittany Lions teammates in 2016. And for good reason- it took Barkley little time to burst on the scene as a true freshman, displaying the potential to develop into one of the top players in the nation, and possibly one of the very best in a long line of legendary running backs to wear a Penn State uniform. Entering his sophomore year, his name is being floated as a potential Heisman winner despite the fact that many of the finalists from 2015 will return this fall. He's also made tremendous strides in the weight room during the offseason, and will be a more physical runner and quicker than he was in 2015.
However, should Barkley be forced to miss time again in 2016, it will not likely derail the season as some may fear. Penn State is in outstanding shape in the running back position, with the likes of Andre Robinson, Mark Allen, Jonathan Thomas and true freshman phenom Miles Sanders all vying for carries behind Barkley.
What could be the most crushing blow to a developing team would be the loss of senior linebacker Brandon Bell. Donning the honorable number 11 jersey, Bell has established himself as an intense and disruptive force at outside linebacker. He will be one of the most productive defenders for the Nittany Lions in 2016, and is coming off a junior season where he was simply everywhere, finishing with 65 tackles, 12.5 negative hits, 5.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and if not for the team's struggles on offense, what would have been a huge momentum-turning interception return against Michigan.
Bell also brings the type of intangibles that will be in demand for a defense that could be facing a step back after losing three extremely productive defensive lineman to the NFL. He's the vocal leader of the squad who leaves everything he has on the field and creates an energy that feeds his teammates throughout each game. He's the type of player who sets an example for the younger guys on the field to play until the whistle. They will depend on him to be a leader on and off-the-field as the program continues to find its way.
Additionally, Bell will likely be counted on as an edge-rusher, perhaps his greatest asset on the field. He can disrupt a play in a split-second, and in a season where Penn State may struggle to develop pressure from a four-man front, Bell's ability to get in the backfield may be desperately needed to keep the defense off the field. Penn State is also short on experience at the linebacker outside of the three starters, meaning it will be absolutely crucial for Bell, along with Nyeem Wartman-White and Jason Cabinda, to remain healthy throughout the upcoming season.
So what say you, BSD reader? Who is the one Penn State player the team simply can't afford to lose in 2016?