When it comes to sending talent off to the NFL, the Big 12 has lagged behind its fellow power conferences, and this draft cycle could see a similar fate. Big 12 members will be sending away some good quality players who will leave their mark on the NFL in the years to come, but most of the players jumping to the next level this year have left behind full college careers. Just a small handful of underclassmen have made the decision to leave college early for the pros.
Nevertheless, these are positions that coaches around the Big 12 will have to fill that they may not have planned for previously. So here is a look at the small group of underclassmen entering the 2022 NFL Draft from the Big 12, and who will be the leading candidate to replace them on the college football field next fall.
Gone: Brian Asamoah, LB
Oklahoma's leading tackler in 2021 is heading off to the NFL, which leaves a big spot to fill on defense. Asamoah led the Sooners with 86 tackles, 56 of which were solo stops. Asamoah was a Butkus Award semifinalist and named second-team All-Big 12 in 2021.
In: Danny Stutsman
Perhaps the most likely replacement for the position's vacancy will be Stutsman. As a freshman, Stutsman appeared in 10 games for the Sooners and recorded 38 tackles in a largely backup role. He saw more playing time in the bowl game victory over Oregon.
Gone: Nik Bonitto, LB
Oklahoma also is losing another key linebacker with Bonitto opting to move on to the NFL as well. Bonitto led the Sooners with 15.0 tackles for a loss in 2021, proving to be quite the disrupter in the backfield with his ability to break through the line. Bonitto was a Bednarik Award semifinalist and second-team All-Big 12 pick.
In: Marcus Stripling
Stripling will be one of the names to watch in the linebacker competition this offseason. He made a position change to linebacker from defensive end last season as coaches saw value in having him in a different spot on the defense. Expect that path to continue under the new coaching staff in Norman.
Gone: Gabe Brkic, K
A kicker declaring early for the NFL is certainly a thing this year. Brkic has decided to move on to the next level after connecting on 20 of 26 field goal attempts in 2021. The Big 12's seventh-most accurate field goal kicker also wasn't one likely to sail a kickoff into the end zone for a touchback. Brkic had just a 46.4 percent touchback rate in 2021.
In: Zach Schmit
With Brkic on his way out, the door is wide open for Schmit to step into the role as the kicking specialist for the Sooners. As a redshirt freshman, he appeared in four games and converted the one field goal attempt he was asked to kick. He also connected on all four extra-point attempts he took.
Gone: Kennedy Brooks, RB
The Sooners' leading rusher also is on his way out with hopes of taking handoffs in the NFL. Brooks ran for 1,253 yards and 13 touchdowns in the 2021 season and was two years removed from a season with 1,011 rushing yards in the same backfield as Jalen Hurts.
In: Marcus Major
The player to watch here is Major, a former four-star recruit in Oklahoma's 2019 class. Major appeared in just five games for Oklahoma in 2021, but he averaged 5.53 yards per attempt while racking up 83 yards on 15 rushing attempts. Although it will be a lot of production to make up for, Oklahoma hopes Majors can handle the responsibility.
Gone: Erik Ezukanma, WR
One of the Big 12's leading receivers has played his last game in Lubbock. Ezukanma only had four touchdowns and 705 yards on 48 receptions. Those numbers weren't good enough to be in the top five of the Big 12 in either statistical category, but he is expected to be a player worth watching in the combine and draft prep circuit.
In: Myles Price
Texas Tech's next leading receiver is already having an impact. Price was the Red Raiders' third-leading receiver in 2021 with 520 yards but registered just two touchdowns.
Gone: Breece Hall, RB
The Big 12's leading rusher will leave behind some big shoes to fill in Ames. Hall led the Big 12 with 122.7 rushing yards per game on his way to 1,472 for the season to go along with 20 touchdowns. Hall was the only player in the Big 12 to average more than 20 rushing attempts per game, reaching this level in 12 games (opted out of the bowl game).
In: Jirehl Brock
The next man up for the Iowa State running game should be Brock. The former four-star recruit in the 2019 class played in all 13 games this past season, in which he rushed for 174 yards on 37 attempts with one touchdown. Naturally, Brock was backing up Hall all season long, and he was the leading rushing option outside of quarterback Brock Purdy when Hall was not available for the bowl game against Clemson.