More Recent Stories
On Sale At Newsstands Now!
Ranking The Top Recruiting Classes During the Bob Stoops Era
Bob Stoops has put together recruiting classes that have yielded Heisman, Outland, Nagurski, Davey O’Brien, Maxwell, Thorpe and Butkus Award winners. Oklahoma has also produced countless All-Americans, All-Big 12 performers and a lion’s share of first-round draft picks, all under the veteran coach’s watch.
But which recruiting class is considered his best? And which has the most star power?
Sooner Spectator has sifted through the information, the performances, the stars and the disappointments surrounding the first 12 recruiting classes of the Stoops era, and we break them all down from top to bottom.
No. 1 — 2006
Star power: Sam Bradford, Gerald McCoy, Jermaine Gresham, DeMarco Murray, Trent Williams, Jeremy Beal, Quinton Carter
Undervalued contributors: Chris Brown, Mossis Madu, Jonathan Nelson, Adrian Taylor, Brandon Walker, Dominique Franks
Disappointments: Chase Beeler, Chad Roark, Tim Johnson, Daniel Tabon, Malcolm Williams
Why they are No. 1: This class produced the most impressive NFL draft haul we’re likely to ever see, including three of the first four picks in the 2009 NFL Draft. Sam Bradford, the 2008 Heisman Trophy winner, was the No. 1 overall player taken. The standout quarterback also helped lead the Sooners to a BCS National Championship appearance, and several other players from this class took on key roles. This class produced six All-Americans and eleven first-team All-Big 12 selections.
Not only did this group have tremendous star power, it also produced DeMarco Murray, who helped shape the OU offense as much as any player over the past four years. Adrian Taylor, Jonathan Nelson, Chris Brown, Eric Mensik, Mossis Madu, Jeremy Beal, Quinton Carter, Dominique Franks and Brandon Walker were also instrumental to this talent-filled class.
No. 2 — 1999
Star power: Josh Heupel, Jason White, Quentin Griffin, Derrick Strait, Torrance Marshall
Undervalued contributors: Antwone Savage, Brandon Everage and Michael Thompson
Disappointments: Jamar Mozee, Brad Ware, Trey Whitlock
Why they are No. 2: You won’t found a group with more major hardware than the crew from 1999. It’s also the class that keeps on giving, thanks to Josh Heupel’s recent rise to offensive coordinator.
The Sooners had talented players like Roy Williams and Rocky Calmus already on campus when this class arrived, but Heupel almost single-handedly ushered OU into the modern offensive era via his quarterback abilities.
Future Heisman Trophy winner Jason White was also in Bob Stoops’ OU first class, and Michael Thompson could have been one of the best corners to ever play here if not for a tragic car accident.
This class could be viewed as one of the most important recruiting classes in the program’s history. Rivals.com ranked this group of perceived misfits as the 42nd-best class in the country back in ’99, but Derrick Strait became a Thorpe Award-winner as well as a Bronko Nagurski Award-winner. Brandon Everage teamed with Roy Williams to form one of the most fierce safety duos in college football, while Quentin Griffin helped rejuvenate a stagnant OU running game.
No. 3 — 2000
Star power: Mark Clayton, Jammal Brown, Teddy Lehman, Dan Cody, Wes Sims, Jimmy Wilkerson, Antonio Perkins
Undervalued contributors: Howard Duncan, Will Peoples, Terrance Simms, Renaldo Works, Lance Donley
Disappointments: Jerald Estus, Ronbrose Jones, Cliff Takawana, Ataleo Ford
Why they are No. 3: Oklahoma didn’t have to take as many chances on the recruiting trail after Stoops showed the country the Sooners were ready to re-emerge from the ashes the previous season. Linemen Wes Sims and Jammal Brown were two of the biggest prizes in Oklahoma, and the Sooners signed them both. Linebacker Teddy Lehman got the chance to prove his 4.4 40-yard dash was no fluke.
But it was a skinny wide receiver named Mark Clayton who was the real gem of this group. Just as Josh Heupel reinvented the quarterback position, Clayton set the bar for all future OU wide receivers. By the time he was done, Clayton was a Biletnikoff finalist and a two-time All-American.
Lehman went on to win the Butkus and was also a two-time All-American. Brown switched from defensive tackle to offensive tackle and twice earned All-America status. He also brought home the Outland Trophy his senior season.
The success of OU’s 1999 recruiting class put the Sooners back in the recruiting spotlight. In all, the members were awarded eight All-America honors and 11 All-Big 12 first-team honors.
No. 4 — 2005
Star Power: Duke Robinson, Curtis Lofton, Reggie Smith, DeMarcus Granger, Auston English, Brody Eldridge, Nic Harris, Malcolm Kelly, Juaquin Iglesias, Ryan Reynolds, Keenan Clayton, C.J. Ah You
Undervalued contributors: Brian Simmons, Allen Patrick, Manuel Johnson, Jon Cooper, Matt Clapp, Branndon Braxton, Brian Jackson
Disappointments: Brandon Keith, Eric Huggins, Jesse White (injury), Aaron Cummings (injury)
Why they are No. 4: Put this recruiting class back-to-back with our No. 1 selection and you have one heck of a roster. It’s no wonder this nucleus, along with Bradford, Gresham and McCoy, were able to make it to the 2008 national title game.
Duke Robinson is the headliner as a two-time All-American. Curtis Lofton was a game-changer on the defensive side of the ball, garnering All-American honors as a junior. It’s well documented how much the versatile Brody Eldridge meant to the program during his time, but Malcolm Kelly and Juaquin Iglesias were stellar at wide receiver after Mark Clayton departed for the NFL.
The number of starters and major contributors in this class is staggering. They accounted for 11 first-team All-Big 12 accolades while also picking up three first-team All-American awards.
No. 5 — 2010
Star Power: Tony Jefferson, Kenny Stills, Roy Finch, Aaron Colvin, Trey Millard
Undervalued contributors: Daniel Noble, Corey Nelson, Brennan Clay, Bronson Irwin, Trey Franks
Disappointments: Too early to tell
Why they are No. 5: It’s hard to take a group this young and put it this high, but this class deserves it. Tony Jefferson was the best true freshmen defensive back we’ve seen under Stoops. Receiver Kenny Stills had a monstrous true freshmen year, and fullback Trey Millard was another key to OU’s offensive success.
Roy Finch flashed signs of being OU’s most dynamic running back since, dare we say, the Adrian Peterson days. He’s not the same type of runner as AD, but the excitement he generates is comparable.
Aaron Colvin started against Texas this season and played lights out. Corey Nelson saw plenty of action as a true freshmen, and there are rave reviews coming in for players who are expected to play big roles this fall — including Geneo Grissom, Aaron Franklin, James Hayes, Torrea Peterson, Daryl Williams and Adam Shead.
Bob Stoops believes this is his best class. That’s a lot to live up to. But it’s enough for us to jump the 2010 class all the way to No. 5.
No. 6 — 2001
Star Power: Tommie Harris, Dusty Dvoracek, Vince Carter, Brandon Jones, Clint Ingram, Chris Chester
Undervalued talent: Kejuan Jones, Chris Bush, Jonathan Jackson, Russell Dennison, Bubba Moses
Disappointments: Brent Rawls, Jon Hawk, Jowahn Poteat, Clint Werth, Mike Wilson
Why they are No. 6: Tommie Harris was Stoops’ first major success in the Red River recruiting battle. You could make an argument that this class should have been better following up a national championship year, but the Sooners got the bulk of their offensive and defensive line production for the next four seasons out of this class.
Dusty Dvoracek experienced a few ups and downs during his career, but he was as productive as any defensive linemen in recent memory. Jonathan Jackson was also an immediate impact player at defensive end, and Clint Ingram became one of the team’s most productive linebackers.
Brent Rawls is one of the disappointments in the Stoops era. The quarterback from Louisiana had tons of potential, but his off-the-field issues off proved too much to overcome. This class also produced WWE wrestling superstar Jack Swagger (aka Jacob Hager), a one-time defensive lineman who finished his OU career as a wrestler.
Brandon Jones and Kejuan Jones also became a major part of the offense and helped QB Jason White put up huge numbers on his way to a Heisman Trophy.
No. 7 — 2004
Star Power: Adrian Peterson, Rhett Bomar, Chijioke Onyenegecha, Marcus Walker, Lendy Holmes, Garrett Hartley
Undervalued performers: Remi Ayodele, Cory Bennett, Branndon Braxton, Quentin Chaney, D.J. Wolfe
Disappointments: Chris Patterson, Randy McAdams, Cameron Schacht, J.D. Quinn, Fred Strong
Why they are No. 7: On paper and in recruiting lore, this appeared to be one of OU’s most impressive classes ever. A lot of that was due to the signing of Adrian Peterson, the No. 1-ranked prospect in the country.
The Sooners won a fierce recruiting battle with the entire college football world to land Peterson. Just like Tommie Harris did two years earlier, Peterson stomped on the hearts of Texas fans by heading north to Norman.
Rhett Bomar, possibly the most controversial player of the Stoops era, appeared to be the next big thing after leading OU to a Holiday Bowl victory in 2005. But off-the-field issues derailed his career.
This class was rated as the eighth-best class in college football back in 2004, according to Rivals.com. But Peterson turned out to be the only superstar, as he finished as the Heisman trophy runner-up, earned All-America honors and was a two-time first-team All-Big 12 pick.
Garrett Hartley was the most consistent place-kicker in the Stoops era so far, and he’s continued to impress in the NFL. Remi Ayodele was an underrated defensive tackle, while Holmes, Walker and Wolfe all ended up being fixtures in the OU secondary.
No. 8 — 2002
Star power: Rufus Alexander, J.D. Runnels, Brodney Pool, Davin Joseph, Lance Mitchell
Undervalued performers: Pasha Jackson, Larry Birdine, Zach Latimer, Chris Messner, Paul Thompson
Disappointments: DaBryan Blanton, Abner Estrada, Jeff Lebby, Josh Roberts, Michael Hawkins
Why they are No. 8: Someclasses can known as much for their recruiting disappointments as their star power, and the 2002 class almost fits that mold. DaBryan Blanton, one of the nation’s most coveted receivers, ended up focusing on track and never played a down of football for the Sooners.
Kicker Josh Roberts decided to pursue his dream of being on Broadway instead of playing football. Michael Hawkins, who grew up homeless in Dallas, was on the verge of stardom with the Sooners when he left for the music business.
Meanwhile, there were success stories. Rufus Alexander became an All-America linebacker, and lineman Davin Joseph was a first-round NFL draft pick. Pool, Mitchell, Runnels, Birdine and Messner also helped this class produce eight first-team All-Americans.
Current OU volunteer assistant Wayne Chambers was part of this group, and the biggest contribution may have come from quarterback Paul Thompson, who helped lead the Sooners to a 2006 Big 12 title after Rhett Bomar was kicked off the team the day before fall practices began.
No. 9 — 2007
Star Power: Ryan Broyles, Travis Lewis, Phil Loadholt, Frank Alexander, Austin Box, Jamell Fleming, Donald Stephenson
Undervalued performers: Jimmy Stevens, Sam Proctor
Disappointments: Mike Reed, Jontae Bumpus, Desmond Jackson, Keith Nichol
Why they are No. 9: The 2007 class contains one of the greatest players in the Stoops era in Ryan Broyles. He’s already an All-American and an All-Big 12 first-team performer. Along with Broyles, Travis Lewis returns for his senior season to lead the defensive side of the ball this coming fall.
Even though many players from this class are still at OU, even more have departed the program, including David Anderson, Jontae Bumpus, Jordan Nix, Keith Nichol, Tyler Stradford, Alex Williams, Kody Cooke, Jason Hannan and Desmond Jackson.
Mike Reed, a five-star juco talent, was probably the biggest blow to the OU program. He arrived with great expectations but never really caught on.
Donald Stephenson could end up being a high draft pick before all is said and done, while Phil Loadholt was a major part of the national championship run in 2008 and is already a fixture in the NFL. Jamell Fleming, Frank Alexander and Jimmy Stevens also give this class a nice foundation as starters.
No. 10 — 2009
Star power: Ronnell Lewis, Jamarkus McFarland, Demontre Hurst, Cameron Kenney, Tyler Evans
Undervalued performers: Javon Harris, Tom Wort, Gabe Lynn, Josh Aladenoye
Disappointments: Jeff Vinson, Gus Jones, Justin Chaisson
Why they are No. 10: It’s difficult to evaluate classes that are still forming their identity, especially when you compare them to finished products. This class could still have plenty of All-Americans and All-Big 12 performers — only time will tell.
Some players like Kevin Brent, Marcus Trice and Gabe Lynn are highly ranked players who have yet to live up to expectations but may well do so in the near future. There aren’t any legitimate disappointments in this class with the exceptions of Gus Jones, Justin Chaisson and Jeff Vinson, who are no longer on campus.
Cameron Kenney made a major impact as a senior wide receiver this past season, and versatile Ronnell Lewis appears to be in line for greatness on the defensive side of the ball. Jamarkus McFarland was another great win in the Red River recruiting rivalry, and Demontre Hurst has been a solid addition as a starting cornerback.
Gabe Ikard and Tyler Evans have also been fixtures on the offensive line.
There is still much promise in this class. Javon Harris should take over a starting safety spot in 2011 while Josh Aladenoye is a player coaches point to as a future starter at offensive tackle. Gabe Lynn is one of the best young corners in the program, and Jonathan Miller could be a major factor at running back too.
No. 11 — 2008
Star Power: Landry Jones, Ben Habern, Tress Way, James Hanna
Undervalued performers: Stacey McGee, Dejuan Miller, Casey Walker, Joseph Ibiloye, David King
Disappointments: Justin Johnson, Jameel Owens, J.R. Bryant, R.J. Washington
Why they are No. 11: This class signed three of the best high school football players in Texas — Jermie Calhoun, Stephen Good and R.J. Washington — all of whom were five-star recruits according to Rivals.com.
Rated as the sixth-best class in the country following signing day in 2008, so far this class still has much to prove.
Stoops did get his triggerman in this class with Landry Jones, who has become a very good college quarterback. Center Ben Habern has been everything he was advertised to be and more, and tight end James Hanna and defensive linemen Stacey McGee and Casey Walker have all become solid contributors.
On the other side, Jameel Owens transferred after spending time in the doghouse, while Dejuan Miller has been slowed by injuries. While Stephen Good has not become a difference-maker on the O-line many expected, he still has time to mature and improve.
R.J. Washington may be the biggest mystery. One of the top defensive line prospects in the country, Washington has struggled for playing time in a backup role.
This class also has the triumphant and disappointing story of Mike Balogun, who overcame so many obstacles in life to earn a starting spot on a national championship-caliber team at age 25, only to have it taken away on an NCAA rules technicality.
This class will also be remembered for Justin Johnson, who was responsible for rallying this group of recruits together as a high school senior. Johnson decided to transfer after things didn't work out as well as he hoped.
No. 12 — 2003
Star power: Donté Nicholson, Darien Williams, Lewis Baker, Joe Jon Finley
Undervalued performers: Jacob Gutierrez, Steven Coleman, Alonzo Dotson, Carl Pendleton Willie Roberts, Dane Zaslaw, Demarrio Pleasant, John Williams
Disappointments: Lawrence “Moe” Dampeer, Tony Cade, Tashard Choice, Tommy Grady, Akim Millington, Brandon Keith, Tristen Ross, Courtney Tennial, Brian Zimpel
Why they are No. 12: There really are no “lost” classes at Oklahoma during the Bob Stoops era. But this one may be the closest, despite the fact this was one of Stoops’ highest-ranked classes (Rivals.com No. 4).
So what happened?
Talented defensive tackle Moe Dampeer never got his act together, while Tony Cade couldn’t stay out of the doghouse long enough to showcase his many skills. Tommy Grady transferred to Utah, Akim Millington quit the week before he was set to start his first game at offensive tackle, Brandon Keith never even made it through summer workouts and Tristen Ross couldn’t stay academically eligible or in shape.
This class had some solid contributors, but linebacker Donté Nicholson is the only player in this class that was an All-Big 12 performer.
Darien Williams was a very good player in the OU secondary, linebacker Lewis Baker was the heartbeat of the defense, and tight end Joe Jon Finley had a solid career.
Steven Coleman and Carl Pendleton were good on the defensive interior, and it took some time, but Alonzo Dotson made an impact at defensive end. John Williams was good early in his career before injuries and frustration forced him to eventually give up football.
Meanwhile, Tashard Choice got stuck behind Adrian Peterson and transferred. The fact he is still playing in the NFL demonstrates his talent.
Finally, running back Jacob Gutierrez was a model citizen and a fan favorite. He remains one of the most beloved Sooners of the Stoops era.
(This story appears in the 2011 Recruiting edition of Sooner Spectator. To read more or subscribe, call toll free 1-877-841-8877)