Four leave early
For the second consecutive year, the Big 12 had four prospects leave before their eligibility expired. This year, the impact was spread over four teams, with no team having more than one early entry (in 2011, Missouri lost two players, Aldon Smith and Blaine Gabbert).
Technically, only three players from Big 12 season-ending rosters are going early, with Kansas State's Bryce Brown electing to leave after he and the team split ways. Other than Brown, the three leaving early were Baylor's Robert Griffin III, Oklahoma's Ronnell Lewis and Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon.
That means the big losers, though neither was a surprise, were Baylor and Oklahoma State. In losing the Heisman Trophy winner, the Bears are out the triplets largely responsible for 2011's offensive success in Griffin, Terrance Ganaway and Kendall Wright.
The Bears still have the weapons to be explosive offensively in 2012, including running backs Jarred Salubi and Glasco Martin and wide receivers Terrance Williams, Lanear Sampson and Tevin Reese. And quarterback Nick Florence has shown the ability to be a strong signal caller in the Big 12. But Griffin would have put that offense over the top.
Oklahoma State's loss of Blackmon could be even bigger. With the Cowboys breaking in a new quarterback, losing arguably the Big 12's best all-time wide receiver hurts. Like Baylor, the Cowboys have some pieces returning, but Blackmon could have made life much, much easier.
Oklahoma's loss of Lewis isn't as big a blow because the Sooners have some talent stockpiled at defensive end.
The immediate winner would have to be the Sooners, who get back quarterback Landry Jones, and the only early entry loss was at a position where Oklahoma has some depth.
With Jones, Oklahoma has the talent to make a potential run at another Big 12 title. Without him, and the Sooners would have to take their team an entirely different direction with Blake Bell, or hand the reins off to a different QB.
Texas was another big winner, with defensive pieces Kenny Vaccaro and Alex Okafor deciding to stay put. The Longhorns have a chance to field a dominant defense with so many starters returning, and sewing up the team's best secondary player and pass rusher, respectively, goes a long way toward making that happen.