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Big 12 Football: 10 Toughest Players to Replace in 2020

Big 12 Football: 10 Toughest Players to Replace in 2020

Big 12 Football: 10 Toughest Players to Replace in 2020

Of the 29 first-team picks for the 2019 All-Big 12 Team, 16 are graduating or leaving early for the NFL. That points to heated competition for starting roles in the offseason and urgency around the league when it comes to finding replacements for all that departing talent.

Here are the 10 players (in alphabetical order) that will be the most difficult to replace around the Big 12 in 2020.

Hakeem Adeniji, OL, Kansas

Adeniji provided one of the few bright spots for the Jayhawks in the last four years. He started all 48 games in his career, earning all-conference honors in his senior year. Given the lack of NFL-quality players in the KU program, the odds are slim that there's another Adeniji waiting to take over on the offensive line this fall.

Ross Blacklock, DL, TCU

Blacklock put together a solid season of film in 2019 that earned him a first-team pick on the all-conference team. Even though nine tackles for a loss and 40 total stops don't sound like a huge loss from a production standpoint, defensive linemen of Blacklock's caliber don't come around often in Big 12 country. His decision to leave early for the pros will create a hole in the TCU roster.

Jordyn Brooks, LB, Texas Tech

Head coach Matt Wells is trying to rebuild the Tech defense after years of neglect. That project got off to a decent start in 2019 in part due to the stellar play of Brooks, who finished third in the conference with 108 tackles despite playing in just 11 games. The Red Raiders historically have lacked for productive players on the defensive side of the ball, so it seems unlikely they will have a natural replacement for an all-conference linebacker.

Devin Duvernay, WR, Texas

After years on the periphery of the Texas offense, Duvernay arguably became the focal point last season. His 106 catches nearly tripled the next closest player on his own team and put him third nationally. A bevy of Longhorns will audition in the offseason for Duvernay's role of go-to receiver.

Neville Gallimore, DL, Oklahoma

"Big Canada" finally lived up to his nickname as a redshirt senior in the attacking style installed by new defensive coordinator Alex Grinch. The Sooners did more rotating along the defensive line, which helped Gallimore stay fresh at nose tackle. He rewarded Grinch by becoming a more productive and disruptive player.

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With defensive tackles Marquise Overton and Dillon Faamatau also graduating, OU will be counting on newcomers to hold down the interior of the defensive line.

Ray Lima, DL, Iowa State

Iowa State has developed a cutting-edge scheme for stopping spread offenses in recent years. Lima deserves credit for his role in making it a success. He commanded double teams and crashed into backfields for the last three seasons. The Cyclones need more active disruptors such as Lima to thrive on defense going forward.

James Lynch, DL, Baylor

The 2019 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year anchored a defensive line that helped key the Bears' run to the conference championship game. In a sign that he was nearly unblockable all season, Lynch's 19.5 tackles for a loss on the season tied for seventh nationally.

Lynch probably could have started this year for new head coach Dave Aranda's defense at LSU. He probably won't find any players like that now on his newly inherited roster in Waco.

Colton McKivitz, OL, West Virginia

In head coach Neal Brown's first year on the job, McKivitz helped solidify the WVU offensive line and ease the Mountaineers' transition. McKivitz's 2019 season, his fifth at WVU and third as a starting offensive tackle, ended with an all-conference selection. As the Mountaineers continue to work through growing pains this fall, they will miss McKivitz's veteran presence up front.

Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor

Mims was easily the biggest weapon in the Baylor arsenal this season, accounting for half of the Bears' receiving touchdowns. His departure and the growing speculation around quarterback Charlie Brewer's health raise significant questions about the reliability of the team's passing attack in 2020. The Bears will look to returning receivers such as Tyquan Thornton and R.J. Sneed for stability with Mims in the NFL.

Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma

Much like Neville Gallimore, Murray started to reach his potential with all of the changes to OU's defensive scheme last season. In addition to finishing fifth in the conference in tackles, he led the Sooners with 17 tackles for a loss. The 2019 season cemented his status as one of the most coveted inside linebackers in the upcoming NFL draft. Whoever gets the nod to replace Murray has enormous shoes to fill.

— Written by Allen Kenney, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Kenney is founder and editor of and host of the Blatant Homerism Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @BlatantHomerism.