The talent pool in the Big 12 has thinned out over the years compared to some of its Power 5 conference peers, but the Big 12 still has some high-quality players that will need to be replaced in 2022 after a flurry of NFL departures.
As of the time of this list being put together, the final destination of quarterback Caleb Williams had not been determined, so the possible loss of Oklahoma's electrifying quarterback is not included here. Although, yes, that would be one challenging player to replace in Norman. We'll just focus on the players being replaced after leaving for the NFL.
So here are the 10 players heading to the NFL that will be the toughest to replace around the Big 12.
Brian Asamoah, LB, Oklahoma
Perhaps the top defensive prospect out of the Big 12 is Asamoah. The Sooner linebacker brought a great ability to adjust on the fly with an improved football IQ. Replacing that combination of skill and smarts is always challenging.
Nik Bonitto, DE, Oklahoma
Oklahoma’s top defensive lineman could potentially be a first-round draft pick thanks to his ability to thrive in pass rushing. Bonitto had 15 tackles for a loss, tied for third in the Big 12 in 2021.
Perrion Winfrey, DL, Oklahoma
Another key defensive lineman leaving behind some big shoes to fill at Oklahoma is Winfrey. He recorded 11 tackles for a loss last season, including 5.5 sacks. In all, Oklahoma is losing its top three players for tackles for loss from 2021.
Marquis Hayes, OL, Oklahoma
The Sooners are not the only Big 12 team with tough players to replace, honestly. We'll get to some other schools in just a moment. But we may as well throw in their top offensive lineman that is leaving. Hayes is a large (6-5, 324) man, so "big shoes to fill" is an appropriate phrase to use here.
Breece Hall, RB, Iowa State
The top running back prospect out of the Big 12 is Hall, who ended the 2021 season as the conference's second-leading rusher (Baylor's Abram Smith was No. 1 and also leaves a tough job to replace in Waco). Hall led the Big 12 with 20 rushing touchdowns and averaged 21.1 rushing attempts per game, which also led the conference.
Jalen Pitre, S, Baylor
One of the leaders of the dominant Baylor defense, Pitre also was among the team's leading tacklers with 75, 56 of those solo stops. The playmaking safety also had two interceptions and a fumble recovery on an impressive defense.
Terrel Bernard, LB, Baylor
Bernard's departure means head coach Dave Arranda has to replace a 100-tackle linebacker. Bernard had 103 total stops for the Big 12 champions, and he did so in just 13 games. Bernard also was credited with 12.5 tackles for a loss and 7.5 sacks for the stingy Bears defense.
Obinna Eze, OT, TCU
TCU had the Big 12’s second-leading offense, and part of the reason for that was having an offensive line led by Eze. The Horned Frogs gave up a good number of sacks, but Eze continued to prove he is a solid prospect ready for the next level.
Charlie Kolar, TE, Iowa State
Iowa State is set to lose its top two receivers from 2021, but the absence of Kolar may be more difficult to replace. Kolar is among the top tight end prospects available in the draft this year after catching 62 passes for 756 yards and a team-high six touchdowns.
Malcolm Rodriguez, LB, Oklahoma State
Oklahoma State will have to replace the Big 12’s leading tackler with Rodriguez entering the NFL. He recorded an astounding 131 tackles in 14 games last season. Over half (77) were solo tackles (77).
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