OU football: Top 150 list engendered much debate
In the Sunday Oklahoman, I offered up my list of the top 150 Sooner football players ever. Someone emailed me and said the list was too subjective.
Uh, no kidding.
You can find the list here. To me, the top 25-30 were fairly easy to group, if not rank, then it becomes a total crapshoot. I mean, how do you compare Torrance Marshall, a Bob Stoops linebacker who didn’t make all-American, with Buddy Leake, a Bud Wilkinson halfback who didn’t make all-American? How do you compare Waddy Young, a defensive phenom on Tom Stidham’s 1938 Orange bowl team, with Duke Robinson, a two-time all-American blocking for Sam Bradford?
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You just learn all you can about any potential candidate and go with your gut.
I also relied heavily on my friend Mike Brooks, who has become OU’s official statistical historian. Brooks knows his numbers and his facts better than anyone concerning Sooner football, and his database is much envied.
I did a preliminary list, ran it past Brooks and came up with a better list.
Here are some of the things he helped me with:
* Brooks loves DeMarco Murray. I ended up putting DeMarco No. 102, and that’s still too low for Brooks. The numbers are impressive: 3,685 yards rushing; 1,571 yards receiving; 6,718 all-purpose yards; 65 career touchdowns. I guess my only defense is that Murray didn’t make all-American, and the numbers from the Sam Bradford era seem a little hollow – everyone had big numbers in those uptempo days, sort of like the early days of the wishbone.
* Brooks was thrilled that I included Phil White, a 1920s OU star, but thought maybe I had him too high, at No. 30. But White was a great, great player under Bennie Owen, and I thought it important to recognize the Owen era.
* Brooks campaigned for Landry Jones to be on my list, so I late in the process I placed Landry at No. 150. Landry made 50 starts and his 16,646 passing yards rank third all-time in NCAA history and his 123 touchdown passes rank seventh all-time in NCAA history. I was OK with Landry at 150, but again, some of those numbers are inflated by the era.
* Brooks listed these players as potential candidates to make the list: Cale Gundy, Hugh McCullough, Buddy Leake, Bobby Warmack, Bill Jennings, Juaquin Iglesias, Jeremy Beal, David Baker, Orlando Brown, Joe Mixon, Steve Aycock, Tim Lashar, Kenny Stills, Austin Seibert.
I moved McCullough (137) and Orlando Brown (135) onto my list, because of Brooks. McCullough was the throwing quarterback on that ’38 Orange Bowl team. And Brown, I just sort of overlooked originally.
As for the others, Gundy and Warmack were good quarterbacks, but I didn’t see them being better than Danny Bradley. The latter was the 1984 Big Eight player of the year, and he came in No. 145.
Baker is an interesting candidate. A Wilkinson quarterback in the late ‘50s but also an excellent defensive back who played that position in the NFL. Leake, I considered. Bill Jennings, a 1938-40 end and wingback, not so much.
The modern guys? Stills, Beal, Iglesias? Nope.
Uwe von Schamann is the only kicker/punter on my list, and I didn’t really consider anyone else. Seibert – along with Michael Keeling from the Barry Switzer days – would be an interesting candidate, since both were four-year kickers and punters.
And Aycock, the linebacker from the Chuck Fairbanks days? Maybe I should have considered him more.
* Brooks thought I had some guys ranked a little high and I made some adjustments. Kurt Burris (who ended up 15th), Jim Weatherall (21st), Greg Roberts (28th), Dewey Selmon (31st), Tom Brahaney (35th), Tom Catlin (40th), Granville Liggins (36th), Buddy Burris (38th), Derland Moore (39th), Reggie Kinlaw (44th), Bob Harrison (45th), Waddy Young (53rd), Eddie Crowder (54th), Steve Zabel (55th), Darrol Ray (59th), Jermaine Gresham (63rd), Bo Bolinger (70th), Jimmy Harris (85th),
Louis Oubre (86th), Curtis Lofton (92nd), Mike Gaddis (94th), Prentice Gautt (95th), Kenny Mendenhall (100th), Jason Belser (101st), Stephen Alexander (103rd), Jerry Thompson (121st), Spot Geyer (122nd), Pop Ivy (124th), Obo Okoronkow (130th), Terry Webb (138th), John Roush (140th), Gene Calame (143rd), Darrius Johnson (144th), Danny Bradley (146th), Plato Andros (didn’t make the cut), Billy Brooks (didn’t make the cut) and Leon Cross (didn’t make the cut).
* Brooks thought I had some players ranked low, and in most cases, I moved them up a little or even a lot. Brian Bosworth (12th), Steve Owens (19th), Sam Bradford (24th), Jack Mitchell (26th), Ryan Broyles (27th), Adrian Peterson (43rd), Rocky Calmus (58th), Quentin Griffin (66th), Cedric Jones (81st), Jack Jacobs (82nd), Jimbo Elrod (83rd), Joe Golding (84th), Steve Davis (93rd), DeMarco Murray (102nd), Trent Williams (104th), Claude Arnold (123rd), Antonio Perkins (125th), De’Mond Parker (126th), Marcus Dupree (134th) and Dan Cody (142nd).
* The guys I feel worst about were Billy Brooks and Corey Warren. Warren was the wide receiver from the Gary Gibbs era. I think he would have been a star under Stoops or Lincoln Riley. But something had to give.
* I got a few emails, with questions.
Why not at least an honorable mention for Blake Bell? No offense to Bell, but even if I had done honorable mention, and stretched the list to another 150, Bell wouldn’t have made it. He was a situational player who gained fame because of a gimmick and a nickname, the Belldozer. A good player, but not one of the 300 best in Sooner history.
2. Why no Buster Rhymes? Easy call. Rhymes had the one big game against Nebraska as a freshman halfback, then was a really good receiver four years later as a senior. But in his two years as a halfback, Rhymes rushed for 1,100 yards. In his two years as a receiver, he caught 45 passes, in that wishbone crack (1983-84) when the Sooners actually threw it a little bit. A good player. An interesting career. But not one of the 150 best Sooners ever.
3. Why no Joe Don Looney? Easier call. Looney is remembered for being quite the character and that great breakout play against Syracuse in 1962. He finished strongly in ’62. But Looney didn’t even rush for 1,000 yards in his career. He was a one-year wonder, but nowhere near the wonder that Marcus Dupree or Kyler Murray were.
4. Why Gabe Ikard over the likes of J.C. Watts, Curtis Lofton, Steve Davis, Mike Gaddis and DeMarco Murray? Good question, and Ikard is an interesting case. Here’s what I liked about Ikard. He was a consensus all-American in 2013, and even more impressively, a three-time all-Big 12 selection, in years when the Sooners weren’t dominant. OU did not win the Big 12 in any of Ikard’s final three years, but he made all-conference. That’s impressive to me.
But anyway, the list was a lot of fun and generated a lot of feedback and good discussion. Like I said, anything from 30-100 can vary widely. And the top 150 is a total crapshoot.
The top 20 or so was fairly easy. I mean, we can argue between Roy Williams or Billy Sims, Tommy McDonald or Tony Casillas, Jerry Tubbs or Joe Washington. But we don’t argue whether they belong in the top 12 or 15. They belong. It’s just where they are slotted.