Oklahoma’s push for a national title in 2021 took another hit on Saturday.
Offensive lineman Adrian Ealy, a two-year starter at right tackle for the Sooners, declared on Instatgram for the NFL Draft.
“I wouldn’t trade my four years at Oklahoma for any other school in the country,” Ealy wrote. “After parry and long conversations with my family, I have decided to declare for the 2021 NFL Draft.
“Ever since I was a kid, my dream has ben to play in the NFL, and I am excited to chase that dream! It’s been a privilege and an honor to represent Sooner Nation!”
The 6-foot-6, 327-pound Ealy is a fourth-year junior from Gonzales, LA. After redshirting in 2017 and backing up Cody Ford in 2018, he was second-team All-Big 12 right tackle in 2019 and earned preseason All-Big 12 recognition this year.
Ealy started all 11 games this year for the Sooners and was named second-team All-Big 12 by both media and coaches. According to Pro Football Focus, Ealy allowed just three quarterback sacks on 390 pass protection plays.
Ealy was a 4-star recruit by ESPN, Rivals and Scout and a 3-star prospect by 247 Sports. He picked OU over LSU, Michigan, Arizona and others.
Ealy’s decision follows just days behind the early departure of center, three-year starter and All-American Creed Humphrey. Offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh was hoping to have four starters returning to help anchor next year’s offense.
Despite the loss of Humphrey and Ealy — as of now — the Sooners seem to be mostly fine across the front in 2021.
OU is scheduled to return right guard Tyrese Robinson and left guard Marquis Hayes. Senior left tackle Erik Swenson, a two-year starter, could choose to return next year, per the NCAA’s one-time COVID eligibility waiver. And Anton Harrison, a true freshman who alternated much of the season with Swenson at left tackle, could play either side.
Sophomore guard Brey Walker, who missed much of 2020 with an injury, also has played tackle. And guard Andrew Raym, another true freshman, figures to get playing time somewhere inside. The Sooners also have UCLA transfer guard Chris Murray available next year after he sat out most of 2020 as a transfer.
Oklahoma could also get back redshirt freshman Stacey Wilkins, who was discussed last spring and during the preseason as a candidate to start at left tackle, but opted out of the season instead.
OU’s offensive line got more bad news earlier on Saturday with SI All-American offensive tackle Tristan Leigh verbally committed to Clemson over Oklahoma.
Sooners coach Lincoln Riley said on Friday that he had begun conversations with the team's draft-eligible underclassmen about their options.
"Yeah, we’ve started that process with them," Riley said. "We haven’t received draft grades back on any of our guys yet so that’s certainly part of the equation. That becomes strictly an on-field evaluation only, so that only tells part of the story. But obviously it’s an important piece.
"We’ve had a couple conversations with those guys and families and will continue to have those conversations and try to help them land in the right spot and make sure they’ve got all the information that they need. Still ongoing with those guys but that’s kind of a part of it this time of year.
"They’re fun conversations to have with guys," Riley said. "If you’re having those conversations with guys having potential to be drafted in an advantageous spot, then some things have gone well. So it’s definitely good to be able to connect with those guys and their families. It’s the kind of conversations that when you start off recruiting and getting to know their families, you always hope that you’ll be in a position to have a realistic conversation about that at some point. So it’s been good."