When Bob Stoops retired last week, he left behind two big things.
One was a huge chasm on the landscape of college football. A coaching lion of Stoops’ magnitude doesn’t just fade away into retirement without the rest of the sport feeling his absence.
The other thing Stoops left, however, is far more enduring: a legacy.
Now, there’s a lot to that. But in the realm of a coach who impacted countless lives over 18 years, let’s consider just the players who played for him.
The All-Stoops Team. Oklahoma’s best players during the 1999-2016 Stoops era.
Mitch Sherman of ESPN.com jump-started this discussion last week, and since then, sports talk radio hasn’t let go. And for good reason. It’s a fun debate, spirited at times, and while there are absolutely almost no wrong answers, there are also some nearly indisputable names and others who need thorough reexamination.
All week, The Franchise (TheFranchiseOK.com) has taken your votes for the All-Stoops Team, and the results are revealed today during the noon Locker Room Unfiltered show.
I covered the Stoops era as a newspaper beat writer from 2004-2012, and since 2012, I’ve covered Stoops’ Sooners as a columnist. (From 1999 to 2003 I was on other beats, but I studied OU football closely.)
Here’s my All-Stoops Team.
Some of these are easy. A couple were extremely hard. I would have rather compiled a “Top Five Players at Each Position in the Stoops Era” type of list, and I probably still will.
For this list, with just 24 spots available, I favored career achievements over short-term success (Travis Lewis over Curtis Lofton, Ryan Broyles over Dede Westbrook), and I feel good about all my choices, though I’m still debating myself at one position.
If you can talk me out of any of these, please fire away on Twitter (@johnehoover). I welcome your feedback.
Quarterback: Sam Bradford (2007-09)
I was lucky enough to be ringside for every one of Bradford’s throws, and to me, this is a great discussion. Josh Heupel won a national title and finished second in the Heisman. Jason White won a Heisman and finished second for two national titles. And Bradford won the Heisman and finished second for a national title. I separated Bradford because he operated an offense that ran like no other in college football history. If two receivers hang onto to catches and one blocker doesn’t blow his assignment on the goal line, Bradford is a national champ, too.
Franchise listeners voted: Bradford
Running back: Adrian Peterson (2004-06)
Again, I covered every one of Peterson’s touches, and this is one of the easiest call on the books. Peterson was, and remains, an otherworldly talent. He might have been the best running back on the planet when he was a Sooner freshman 13 years ago, and he is still in the discussion today. He’s this generation’s Jim Brown or Eric Dickerson, and in a stunningly good pantheon of legendary running back talent in Norman — DeMarco Murray, Samaje Perine, Joe Mixon, Quentin Griffin and others just a tier below — Peterson stands alone.
Franchise listeners voted: Peterson
Fullback: J.D. Runnels (2002-05)
Trey Millard was bigger, Aaron Ripkowski was stronger, Dimitri Flowers is faster. All of those guys might be more versatile than J.D. Runnels. But if we’re putting a fullback on this list, give me the guy that blocked for Adrian Peterson. Runnels could do all those things the others could, but his role was to line up in front of Peterson, hand in the dirt, and kick out the end or iso the linebacker. Nobody did it better. Just ask A.D.
Franchise listeners voted: Millard
Tight end: Jermaine Gresham (2006-08)
Nobody who played tight end at Oklahoma during the Stoops era — or before or since, really — was on Jermaine Gresham’s level. A mismatch in the center of the field or in the red zone, no defensive player in the country could consistently cover Gresham one-on-one. And at 260 pounds, he was a mauler.
Franchise listeners voted: Gresham
Wide receiver: Mark Clayton (2001-04), Ryan Broyles (2008-11)
This was a tough call because of the one-year excellence of Dede Westbrook and the career excellence of Sterling Shepard. Give me a three-receiver team lineup and I struggle to leave off one. But with just two spots, I’ll take Mark Clayton and Ryan Broyles, two sure-handed receivers who set the standard for those who came after. Clayton was arguably the nation’s top receiver in 2003, then acquiesced to a lesser role when Peterson arrived but still was impossible to cover. Broyles set the NCAA record for catches, but his value wasn’t fully appreciated until he was injured and the OU offense was paralyzed.
Franchise listeners voted: Broyles, Shepard
Center: Vince Carter (2001-04)
With a warrior mentality, Vince Carter fought through chronic and debilitating knee injuries and might have been college football’s top center his final two seasons. He was the centerpiece of one of Stoops’ best offensive lines. Jon Cooper, tough as dirt and smart as a whip, gets an honorable mention here, but if not for the knees, Carter would have been an NFL talent for a decade or more. Gabe Ikard, a converted tight end, also got consideration.
Franchise listeners voted: Ikard
Guard: Davin Joseph (2002-05), Chris Chester (2002-05)
Easily the best guard of the Stoops era, Joseph played nine seasons in the NFL. He did it with raw power, unparalleled precision, unmatched toughness — and somehow, a friendly smile. Chris Chester gets the nod here over Duke Robinson simply because Chester’s work ethic and attention to detail outshined his raw talent. That wasn’t always the case with Robinson. Plus, Chester — a former tight end who beat Missouri with a fake field touchdown — can always sneak out and catch a pass if you need him to.
Franchise listeners voted: Robinson, Joseph
Tackle: Trent Williams (2006-09), Jammal Brown (2001-04)
I struggled here to leave out Lane Johnson and Phil Loadholt. Both were great at OU and became big-time NFL stars. But while playing for Stoops, nobody was better at protecting the edge for Jason White and Sam Bradford than Jammal Brown and Trent Williams, respectively. Both had the street-fighter mentality to help clear the way for record-setting running backs, and both were the first line of defense in keeping safe Heisman-winning quarterbacks.
Franchise listeners voted: Williams, Brown
Defensive tackle: Tommie Harris (2001-03), Gerald McCoy (2007-09)
I always found it interesting that two of the most openly and devoutly religious players under Bob Stoops were also players who excelled at tearing their opponents limb from limb. Tommie Harris and Gerald McCoy took different paths to stardom (Harris had a tackle for loss on his very first play, McCoy needed a year to redshirt), but were both dominant college players who became NFL fixtures.
Franchise listeners voted: Harris, McCoy
Defensive end: Dan Cody (2000-04), Jeremy Beal (2007-10)
Dan Cody was a rare beast, 6-foot-5, 260 pounds, long arms, a bad attitude (at least his opponents thought so) and ran like a wide receiver. Jeremy Beal was the exact opposite: 6-1, 250, a compact frame and a professorial approach to the position. When Sherman’s list came out, I first thought, “Jeremy Beal? What? No Jonathan Jackson? No Frank Alexander?” But Beal’s long-term excellence (he’s second in school history in both sacks and tackles for loss by a defensive lineman) justify his spot on this team.
Franchise listeners voted: Cody, Beal
Middle linebacker: Teddy Lehman (2000-03)
Bob Stoops’ fastest linebacker, Teddy Lehman won national awards and was a game-changing talent every time he stepped on the field. Whether creating turnovers in the passing game or chasing down runners in the backfield, Lehman’s productivity and consistency was unmatched.
Franchise listeners voted: Rocky Calmus (played outside linebacker)
Outside linebacker: Rocky Calmus (1998-2001), Travis Lewis (2008-11)
Also the best linebacker of the John Blake era, Rocky Calmus is still No. 1 among several OU career and single-season records, including tackles for loss. His ability to diagnose a play and change the outcome of a game brought Stoops a national championship in just his second season. I disagreed at first with Sherman putting Travis Lewis on this list, but he’s No. 1 in career tackles in the Stoops era, and was a turnover machine. A fantastic freshman year set him on the path to career success. I’d have taken Curtis Lofton at first, but after deeper consideration, he had just one great season. Lewis had four.
Franchise listeners voted: Lehman (played outside linebacker), Calmus, Eric Striker
Cornerback: Derrick Strait (2000-03), Andre Woolfolk (2009-12)
This position was a conundrum. Derrick Strait, like 4-5 other players on this list, was an absolute no-brainer. He was a ball-hawk, 14 career interceptions in a Big 12 era when running the football ruled the day, an instinctive runner after the catch and a sure tackler. Demontre Hurst got a look, too: big heart, durability, toughness, attitude and productivity. Zack Sanchez (Sherman’s pick) had more INTs (15) than Strait, and his ball skills were terrific, but he played in a pass-first era (big numbers), and nobody got beat more often than Sanchez. I strongly considered Antonio Perkins. I also leaned toward Jamell Fleming, a terrific cover guy and a big hitter who had amazing ball instincts, and Aaron Colvin, who also played safety. But Woolfolk, after switching from receiver to corner, helped changed the face of the OU defense in 2002.
Franchise listeners voted: Strait, Colvin
Safety: Roy Williams (1999-2001), Brandon Everage (2000-03)
Oklahoma has had a lot of good safeties in the Stoops era, but none were more feared than Roy Williams and Brandon Everage. Williams simply changed games, the best defensive player on the field, the subject of offensive coordinators and quarterbacks’ nightmares, versatile, powerful and smart. Everage was an assassin in the backfield, fearless and intimidating. No receiver wanted to come near his vicinity, and he still collected 10 career interceptions.
Franchise listeners voted: Williams, Everage
Kicker: Garrett Hartley (2004-07)
In his last two seasons, Hartley was automatic, hitting 32-of-35 field goals. He was also clutch in the fourth quarter. That’s not something you could say of Sherman’s pick of all-time leading scorer Michael Hunnicutt. Hartley also had a solid NFL career.
Franchise listeners voted: Hartley
Punter: Tress Way (2009-12)
Another no-brainer. Tress Way, a four-year starter, is OU’s all-time leader in career average (44.0), single-game average (58.8), ranks 2-3-4 in single-season average and owns three of the four longest punts in school history, including an 85-yarder. He’s the best punter in OU history.
Franchise listeners voted: Way
Columnist John E. Hoover is co-host of “Further Review with Hoover & Rew” and can be heard every weekday on The Franchise in Tulsa from noon to 3 p.m. with co-host Lauren Rew. In Oklahoma City, catch him Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings at 10:25 and every Friday afternoon at 4:05. Listen at fm107.7 in OKC, fm107.9/am1270 in Tulsa, on The Franchise app, or click the “Listen” tab on The Franchise home page. Visit his personal page at johnehoover.com.