Since the turn of the century, the Oklahoma Sooners have had some of the best players in college football on both sides of the ball. Quarterbacks Jason White, Sam Bradford, Landry Jones, Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray, and Jalen Hurts have been some of the best at the position in the last 20 years.
The star-studded Sooners have found success between the lines and at awards ceremonies. In the Big 12, no team has come close to their sustained level of excellence over the last 20 years. Though it’s been 21 years since their last national championship, their dominance of the Big 12 can’t be understated.
They’ve been as talented as anyone in the country, even if that hasn’t always translated to national championship success.
It’s no surprise then that when Bleacher Report’s Kerry Miller put together the All-Big 12 Team of the 21st century, Sooners of the past were quite prevalent on the team.
Here were the guidelines he put in place to define the 21st century.
The 21st century began on January 1, 2001. That means the 2000 season does not count. Only seasons in which the program was part of the Big 12 counted. That means players from Nebraska and Colorado from 2001-10, Missouri and Texas A&M from 2001-11 and West Virginia and TCU from 2012-Present were eligible for consideration, but not for the years outside of those ranges. – Miller
Let’s take a look at the Sooners that made Bleacher Report’s All-Big 12 team of the 21st century. Unfortunately, not every spot could be filled with a player from Oklahoma. However, several Sooners could make an argument for inclusion on this list.
Baker Mayfield, Quarterback
Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Baker Mayfield’s walk-on to transfer to stardom story was one of the most remarkable storylines of the last 20 years. It’s rare to see a player start his career as a walk-on with one team, transfer to another, only to walk on and then win Big 12 championships and a Heisman Trophy. Mayfield was a rarity. He was as passionate as he was skilled and was instrumental in resurrecting Oklahoma’s offense in the latter part of the last decade.
The former walk-on at Texas Tech transferred to Oklahoma and got increasingly better in each of his three seasons there. He had a 189.4 passer efficiency rating from 2015-17, racking up 12,292 yards and 119 touchdowns against 21 interceptions. He set the all-time single-season PER record (196.4) in 2016. He then broke that record with a 198.9 the following year. (That record has since been broken in each of the past three seasons.) – Miller
Vince Young was the player that could have been considered for this spot, but Mayfield’s three-year run of excellence defined the future at the quarterback positon for Lincoln Riley and the offense. And though Young has the National Championship to his ledger, had the Sooners’ defenses been halfway competent, there’s a good chance “National Champion” is added to Mayfield’s list of accomplishments.
Adrian Peterson, Running Back
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports © copyright Matthew Emmons
Adrian Peterson might be one of the best players in Oklahoma Sooners history. His blend of size, speed, and strength was a rare treat to watch on Saturdays. AD could score from anywhere on the field as overmatched defenders bounced off of him or couldn’t keep up with him in the open field.
Despite a dislocated shoulder his freshman year, a broken foot his sophomore year and a broken collarbone his junior year, Peterson rushed for 4,041 yards and 41 touchdowns in 31 games. He began his college career with nine consecutive games with at least 100 yards rushing and set the all-time freshman rushing record (1,925 yards; since broken by Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor). He finished second in the Heisman vote that year—the only Big 12 running back to place top-four in the past 20 years. – Miller
Miller considered Darren Sproles and Cedric Benson as possible options for this spot but made the correct choice with Peterson. There hasn’t been a talent quite like Peterson in the Big 12 since its inception and few players in college football in the last two decades can match his ability.
Jammal Brown, Offensive Tackle
(Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
Paving the way for Peterson to set the record for rushing yardage by a freshman was the Oklahoma Sooners offensive line led by Jammal Brown.
Sticking with Jim Parker Trophy winners, the other two from the Big 12 in the past two decades were tackles Jammal Brown and Russell Okung. – Miller
Brown won the Outland Trophy in 2004 as the nation’s most outstanding offensive lineman and was a two-time All-American for the Sooners.
Duke Robinson, Guard
(Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Duke Robinson, a two-time All-American for the Oklahoma Sooners, paving the way for a Sooners running game that had three running backs with at least 600 yards rushing and eight touchdowns. Upfront, Robinson and the offensive line were instrumental in giving Quarterback Sam Bradford time to throw as well on his way to tremendous freshman and sophomore seasons for the Sooners.
The lone double dip of unanimous honors was Oklahoma’s Duke Robinson in 2007-08. He flamed out almost immediately in the NFL, but the left guard was the linchpin of a line that paved the way for a whole lot of points. His senior year, the Sooners entered the BCS Championship against Florida averaging 54.0 points per game. – Miller
Gabe Ikard, Center
Sep 24, 2011; Norman, OK, USA; Oklahoma Sooners guard Gabe Ikard (64) and guard Stephen Good (77) in action against the Missouri Tigers at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. The Sooners beat the Tigers 38-28. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Gabe Ikard’s flexibility and ability were instrumental to the Sooners’ success in the early part of the last decade. Ikard started 50 games for the Oklahoma Sooners. In his first two years, he bounced back and forth between left guard and center before settling in at center for his final two seasons.
And then it’s back to Oklahoma for center, where Gabe Ikard was a consensus All-American in 2013. Even though the Sooners didn’t have a 1,000-yard rusher on the roster that year, Ikard helped lead them to 224 rushing yards per game and an 11-2 record. – Miller
Tommie Harris, Defensive Tackle
(Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
If it weren’t for the dominance displayed by Ndamukong Suh during his time at Nebraska, Tommie Harris might go down as the best defensive tackle the Big 12 has seen to date. Harris was a dominant force in the middle of the Sooners defensive line and racked up multiple All-American awards in 2002 and 2003. In 2003, he had 37 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, and five sacks on the season for a team that won their first 12 games of the season before dropping the Big 12 championship game to Kansas State and losing in the Sugar Bowl to LSU.
Suh was named a starting defensive tackle on Sports Illustrated’s college football all-decade team in 2009, but so was fellow Big 12 interior lineman Tommie Harris. The Sooner was a consensus All-American in 2002 before receiving that honor unanimously in 2003. Both Harris and Suh won the Lombardi Award in their respective senior seasons, annually given to the nation’s best lineman (offensive or defensive) or linebacker. – Miller
Teddy Lehman, Linebacker
(Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Does your favorite linebacker have a stretch of highway named after them? Well, fun fact. Teddy Lehman does on a stretch of Oklahoma highway 62 in Fort Gibson. With Tommie Harris in front of him, Teddy Lehman was fantastic at the second level for the Oklahoma Sooners. An incredible athlete, Lehman possessed running back speed in a linebacker’s body that allowed pursue ball carries from sideline to sideline.
The year before that, Oklahoma’s Teddy Lehman won the nation’s other best defender honor, the Chuck Bednarik Award. He was a consensus All-American in 2002 and a unanimous one in 2003, leading an Oklahoma defense that held opponents below 16 points per game in each season. The Big 12 DPOY had 19 tackles for loss in his senior season. – Miller
Roy Williams, Safety
In today’s football landscape, Roy Williams might have been a linebacker. At safety, he was just unfair. His athleticism and physicality helped shape the Sooners’ defense in the early 2000s and he came up with one of the most important and well-known defensive plays in Sooners’ history.
Only one of Roy Williams’ seasons at Oklahoma counts as part of the 21st Century, but that one season was more than enough. His hard hits and horse-collar tackles are all sorts of illegal now, but they made him a unanimous All-American and the seventh-place finisher in the Heisman vote in 2001. He will be forever lauded in Norman for his game-sealing Superman dive against Texas in the 2001 iteration of the Red River Rivalry. – Miller
Snubbed: What about Ryan Broyles?
Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
No Big 12 wide receiver has amassed as many receiving yards or receiving touchdowns as Ryan Broyles did from 2008 to 2011. In fact, only five wide receivers in the history of college football have more receiving touchdowns than Broyles and just two have more receiving yards. As good as Michael Crabtree or Justin Blackmon were, nobody in the history of the Big 12 has been as productive as Ryan Broyles was for the Sooners.
Snubbed: What about Trent Williams?
Oct 4, 2008; Waco, TX, USA; Oklahoma Sooners offensive lineman Trent Williams (71) blocks Baylor Bears defensive end Leon Freeman (49) at Floyd Casey Stadium. Mandatory Credit: James Lang-USA TODAY Sports
On a dominant offensive line, Trent Williams looks pretty underrated right now for not being included on this All-Century team. Williams started a ton of games for the Sooners at left and right tackle and along with Duke Robinson, was instrumental in helping the Sooners get to the BCS National Championship Game in 2008.
Snubbed: What about Rocky Calmus?
Mandatory Credit: Ronald Martinez /Allsport
It’s probably because he just played one season in the 21st century, but Rocky Calmus was a fantastic linebacker for the Sooners and was instrumental in their National Championship in 2000 (that isn’t applicable to this list). Still, in 2001, Calmus was a consensus All-American and first-team All-Big 12 selection.
Snubbed: What about Derrick Strait?
(Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
In the history of the Bronco Nagurski Award, there have been just four defensive backs to take home the illustrious trophy. Pro Football Hall of Famers Charles Woodson and Champ Bailey won it in the 90s. Then Roy Williams took it home in 2001. In 2003, Derrick Strait became the last defensive back to win the Nagurski Award. Sure, he didn’t have the NFL career that Aqib Talib or Prince Amukamara had at the next level, but something has to be said for a player that is the last cornerback to win the award. If you win an award that only two other players at your position have won, you probably deserve to be on the All-Big 12 team for the 21st century.