George Karlaftis and David Bell are out the door, headed to what will likely be successful careers in the NFL.

Now others will need to step up to be the face of the Boilermakers in 2022. There are obvious choices — Hello, Aidan O’Connell! — but perhaps others who aren’t so much.

Let’s take a look at 5 candidates who could take over in 2022.

QB Aidan O’Connell

Yes, the obvious choice, and maybe the only one that turns out to be correct once we get to the fall.

Purdue’s marketing department has already turned to O’Connell as the Boilermakers’ leader, doing so for the Music City Bowl when Karlaftis and Bell decided — reasonably so — to opt out of playing. And O’Connell delivered, as he did frequently once he became the Boilermakers’ starter in the first half of 2021.

In Purdue’s overtime win over Tennessee in Nashville, the soon-to-be 6th-year senior tossed for 534 yards and 5 touchdowns to lead the Boilermakers to their 9th win of the season. In all, O’Connell passed for 3,711 yards with 28 scores and 11 interceptions, while hitting on nearly 72-percent of his attempts.

O’Connell is also a natural leader, an engaging personality and solid citizen around campus who recently proposed to his fiancée Jael Johnson, a star on Purdue’s volleyball team. And he has a great backstory, being a former walk-on who was 9th on the depth chart when he arrived on campus, way back in 2017, but has risen to become one of the best in the Big Ten.

WR Milton Wright

First things first: Will Milton Wright be a Boilermaker in 2022?

The Robin to Bell’s Batman the last couple of seasons wasn’t available for the Music City Bowl due to academic issues, leaving doubt as to whether he’ll be back in 2022. But there’s a feeling that he could be, if he’s able to get his academics straightened out before the fall.

Purdue wants him to; it might need him to. The Boilermakers lose a ton of outside production next season, with Bell’s departure but also consistently solid slot receiver Jackson Anthrop. Wright overcame some drops early in the season last year — seriously, it felt as if he had more drops than receptions in the first few games — to break out, finishing with 57 catches for 732 yards and a team-high 7 touchdowns.

Could Wright become The Man for O’Connell and the Boilermakers’ next season? Maybe. But he’ll need to be on the team.

LB Jalen Graham

Fans love linebackers who can make flash plays. And Jalen Graham can definitely do that, as the rising senior has shown a knack for making game-changing plays at key moments, like he did with his pick-6 against Nebraska last season, 1 of his 2 interceptions that day against quarterback Adrian Martinez.

Purdue needs a defensive star to replace Karlaftis, who is likely to be a top-10 NFL Draft pick this spring.

Graham will have to bring his game up to another level, but he seems capable. Coming to Purdue as a defensive back, the 6-3, 220-pounder has had to grow into his role. But he was great in 2021, with 64 tackles, a team-high 7 passes broken up, the 2 interceptions, a sack and a forced fumble.

LB Yanni Karlaftis

Maybe Purdue trades a Karlaftis for another.

Younger brother Yanni Karlaftis followed his older sibling to Purdue with a ton of credentials, being a 4-star prospect who was recruited by nearly everyone in the Midwest and beyond. Last season didn’t necessarily go as planned; a lingering hamstring injury from his senior season at nearby West Lafayette High School, was still a bother. And by the time he might have been ready to go, Purdue had an established rotation at linebacker that was hard to crack.

That’s not the case heading into 2022.

Purdue would like to pencil Yanni Karlaftis in as a big-time contributor this season, because he has the length, at 6-3, 225-pounds, and athleticism to roam sideline-to-sideline at linebacker. Will he rise like his brother, who not only was a face on the football field but in local car dealership commercials? We will have to see.

DE Nic Caraway

Nic Caraway might be a long-shot prediction.

After all, he is an incoming true freshman. But the 6-3, nearly 260-pound defensive end has shot up the recruiting rankings since the end of his senior season in Bryan, Tex. His ranking at 247Sports is up to No. 184 nationally, 22nd as a defensive lineman and No. 32 overall in talent-rich Texas.

Purdue needs pass-rushing newcomers. Not only has George Karlaftis moved on, but so has fellow D-end DeMarcus Mitchell. And rush end has long been a featured position at Purdue. Maybe Caraway can grab hold of a spot early in his career and make himself a big part of Purdue’s defense in 2022.