When you have a legitimate Heisman contender, it’s quite easy to say who is the most important player on the team. That would be Laviska Shenault, Jr., whose YouTube search looks like this:
Laviska might just be the best receiver in the nation. It’s an achievement on its own to be in the same class as Jerry Jeudy, Rondale Moore, CeeDee Lamb, Justyn Ross and Dylan Wallace; to be the best of the bunch is something else. This is what something else looks like, in full action:
What you see is a 6’2, 220-lbs. receiver with track speed who’s extremely physical to the point of catch. He also catches literally every throw, even when he has two defenders draped over him and he has to contort to reach the ball.
If the tape doesn’t speak for itself, consider the gaudy stats. In fewer than 9 games, Shenault finished with 86 catches, 1011 yards and 11 total touchdowns. Only Andy Isabella (UMass), Antoine Wesley (Texas Tech) and Tylan Wallace (Oklahoma State) had more yards per game. No one had more receptions per game. Not only that, but Shenault did that in his first year starting, fought double teams on every route and dealt with injuries and overuse.
His volume wasn’t sustainable. His production never dropped off, but his health did. That’s what happens when you see 12 touches per game and are so big that linebackers have to launch into you to bring you down. Hopefully Viska is fully healthy and has learned that he’s allowed to step out of bounds instead of trucking someone for two more yards.
The offense will be more balanced in 2019, but Viska is still everything for this offense. The Buffs would have gone bowling last year if he stayed fully healthy — they also would’ve gone bowling in 2017 if they played Shenault. If he misses any time in 2019, their bowl chances go from somewhat unlikely to impossible. No one else on the Buffs is more important, not even close.
The full most important players list:
20. Tony Brown, WR
19. Jalen Harris, TE (Brady Russell is now starting)
18. Alex Fontenot, RB
17. Mark Perry, SS (Aaron Maddox is starting)
16. Colby Pursell, G
15. William Sherman, RT
14. K.D. Nixon, WR
13. Arlington Hambright, LT
12. Tim Lynott, C
11. Chris Miller-Slaughter, CB
10. Delrick Abrams, CB
9. Mikial Onu, FS
8. Carson Wells, OLB
7. Terrance Lang, DL
6. Jalen Sami, NT
5. Davion Taylor, STAR
4. Nate Landman, LB
3. Mustafa Johnson, DL
2. Steven Montez, QB
1. Laviska Shenault, WR