Oklahoma Sooners: Robert Griffin III
The James story set off a firestorm of other sports-related Rushmores. NFL Rushmores. IndyCar Rushmores. One site even put together its Mount Rushmore of Pro Bass Fishermen.
Not to be outdone, Brandon and I have put together a Mount Rushmore of Big 12 football players.
For those who slept through social studies, the actual Mount Rushmore includes the likenesses of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. The four were chosen not only because they were famous presidents. They were chosen because they were transformational figures in American history.
Washington won the Revolutionary War. Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence. Lincoln freed the slaves. Roosevelt changed American diplomacy.
In keeping with the spirit of the real Mount Rushmore, our Big 12 Rushmore wasn’t just about picking the four best players. It was about picking transformational figures whose impact was far-reaching. And it's just from the Big 12 era (1996-present).
Without further ado, the Big 12 football Mount Rushmore:
Texas QB Vince Young
That all changed in 2005, thanks to one of the greatest individual seasons in college football history. Young put the Longhorns on his back, and took them all the way to Pasadena, Calif. The Longhorns destroyed everyone, including the Sooners, with Ohio State being the only regular-season opponent to play Texas within 10 points.
Young was even more spectacular in the national title game against USC. The mighty Trojans had no answer for Young, who threw for 267 yards and rushed for 200. And in the closing seconds on fourth down, he dashed past the pylon for the game-winning touchdown.
Young didn’t win the Heisman Trophy (he should have), but he became the first FBS quarterback to throw for 3,000 yards and run for 1,000 in the same season. He also finally lifted Texas over the hump, taking the Longhorns from great to elite.
Oklahoma RB Adrian Peterson
Just this month, Oklahoma signed one of the best running backs in the country in California native Joe Mixon. Who is Mixon’s idol? Peterson. Who knows how many recruits the Sooners were able to sign the last decade because of Peterson. The number is substantial.
Peterson arrived in 2004 as the Sooners’ most ballyhooed recruit since Marcus Dupree. Texas wanted Peterson badly. And Peterson actually watched the 2003 Red River Rivalry from the Texas sidelines. But even though Peterson dreamed of playing for the Longhorns growing up, he wanted to win more. Peterson’s signing with Oklahoma added insult to injury to its cross-river rival.
After getting to campus, Peterson put together one of the best freshman seasons ever. He rushed for 1,925 yards, leading the Sooners to the national title game. He also finished second in the Heisman voting, even though there was still a stigma against voting for freshmen.
The next two years of Peterson’s career were marred by injuries (even though he still finished with 4,041 career rushing yards). When healthy, he was the single-most dominant force in Big 12 history.
Baylor QB Robert Griffin III
The Bears had not enjoyed a single winning season since before the inception of the league, and had lost 85 of 96 Big 12 games. The facilities were a mess and attendance was so poor, the school rolled a tarp over Floyd Casey Stadium's south end zone bleachers.
But by the time Griffin left, the program had been transformed. He brought the school its first Heisman Trophy and just its second 10-win season.
Griffin’s effect can still be felt in the Big 12. His magical season spurred Baylor to secure the funding for an on-campus, $260-million stadium that will open this fall. The Bears have also been a force ever since, both on the field and on the recruiting trail. In the last three months, Baylor captured its first Big 12 title, then nailed down a top-25 recruiting class. Until Griffin came along, that would have been unthinkable in Waco. It’s now the standard.
Nebraska DT Ndamukong Suh
There have been some great defensive players to come through the Big 12. None come close to matching Suh, who was one of the most menacing defensive tackles to ever play college football.
In 2009, Suh captured the Outland, Nagurski and Bednarik national awards as the nation’s most outstanding lineman and defensive player. He also became the first defensive Heisman finalist since Michigan’s Charles Woodson in 1997.
Spearheaded by Suh, Nebraska also fielded perhaps the greatest defense in Big 12 history. Despite playing in an era of high-flying offenses, the Huskers gave up just 10.4 points per game, the fewest any defense has allowed in Big 12 history.
Facing off against the Big 12’s best offense in the Big 12 championship, Suh and the Huskers imposed their will, and came a controversial call away from toppling the Longhorns. Texas went on to the national championship game, and Longhorns quarterback Colt McCoy still finished one spot higher in the Heisman voting than Suh. But in that game, like every other one he played in that season, Suh was the best player on the field.
It’s always fun to think back to the former stars of college football recruiting. The Big 12 had a few players who made an impact during their respective recruiting processes.
Here are five players from the Big 12 who made the top 50 of the ESPN Ultimate 300.
What’s the most critical position in the Big 12? It depends on who you talk to. In a conference that rides its offensive reputation, some coaches are hoping to land players that will help them score points, while others are looking for the prospects to prevent points.
As official visits become finalized and uncommitted players get closer to announcing their commitments, here is a look at some of the most critical positions in recruiting for the Big 12 teams.
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Want a few examples, even from just the past few seasons? I'm glad you asked.
Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech, 2007: A position switch and transcript issues meant a redshirt season in 2006, but Crabtree had one of the greatest debut seasons in Big 12 history. He caught three touchdowns in his first game ever, and finished the season with 1,962 yards and 22 touchdowns on 134 catches. No Big 12 receiver has had more yards since, and he took home the Biletnikoff Award after leading the nation in receiving yards by 356 yards. His closest competition caught just 16 touchdowns, too.
Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor, 2008: Griffin committed to Houston first, but followed Art Briles to Baylor and electrified the crowd with early runs in a loss to Wake Forest. He eventually broke the FBS record for passes without an interception, and didn't throw his first until the ninth game of the season. It was clear he was the future of the program, and he finished the season with almost 3,000 yards of offense, accounting for 28 touchdowns.
Daniel Thomas, RB, Kansas State, 2009: Thomas joined the long line of junior college stars under Bill Snyder at Kansas State. Thomas arrived in Manhattan as an unknown and led the Big 12 with 1,265 yards and 11 touchdowns, showcasing great vision and toughness on the way to an eventual NFL draft selection. He led the Big 12 in rushing again in 2010, too.
Devonte Fields, DE, TCU, 2012: Fields was the Frogs' top recruit in 2012 as the nation's No. 73 overall player and the No. 11 defensive end. By the first week of October, he had 9.5 tackles for loss and cruised to earning the Big 12's Defensive Player of the Year honors.
Lavonte David, LB, Nebraska, 2010: He's one of the many Blackshirts' greats over the years, and made adjusting to life in the Big 12 from junior college look easy. He led the league with an eye-popping 152 tackles, and anybody who watched the Huskers every week might have sworn it was more. He was everywhere. He added 12.5 tackles for loss and six sacks, as well as eight pass breakups.
Lache Seastrunk, RB, Baylor, 2012: Seastrunk didn't get much time on the field for the first two months of the season, but once November arrived, he broke out in a huge way. The Oregon transfer was stuck behind Glasco Martin and Jarred Salubi on the depth chart, but earned the nod as the featured back heading into November, and rushed for 831 yards in Baylor's final six games, including an upset of No. 1 Kansas State in the Bears' 5-1 run to close the season.
Bruce Irvin, DE, West Virginia, 2010: Irvin's road was incredible, using junior college to turn his life around and earn his way to WVU after dropping out of high school. In his first season as a Mountaineer, he finished second nationally with 14 sacks, and forced a pair of fumbles.
Travis Lewis, LB, Oklahoma, 2008: Lewis redshirted his first season in Norman, but led the Big 12 with 144 tackles as a redshirt freshman, making 12 tackles for loss and intercepting four passes. It was the start of an incredible career. He led the Sooners in tackles for each of the next four seasons.
With the help of ESPN 300 prospects announcing their verbal commitments, two Big 12 schools saw a slight rise in the latest ESPN class rankings. Because of one Big 12 school’s rise, another Big 12 school took a slight fall in the rankings. Here’s a closer look at the rankings as it pertains to the conference.
Trending up: Oklahoma State saw the biggest rise of the conference -- and of the nation -- by jumping from No. 33 to No. 28. Only Oklahoma State and Florida saw ranking spikes of that caliber during the week. The Cowboys’ success stemmed from landing ESPN 300 CB Chris Hardeman (Houston/Alief Taylor) and three-star WR and high school teammate Keenen Brown. Both committed on Aug. 11. Hardeman, a former LSU commit, is a top-25 cornerback nationally, and Brown, at 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds, can be used as a reliable outside threat in Mike Gundy’s potent offense.
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Facing the Heisman winner, however, has usually not been a positive for the Sooners. OU is 5-11 against Heisman winners in the season they captured the award.
In fact, since beating Florida State quarterback Chris Weinke in the Orange Bowl to take the 2000 national championship, the Sooners have lost three in a row to Heisman winners.
2011: QB Robert Griffin III, Baylor
The result: Baylor 45-35
Griffin Heisman’s moment actually came against the Sooners. Griffin torched OU for 479 passing yards and four touchdowns, including the game-winner with eight seconds to play.
2004: QB Matt Leinart, USC
The result: USC 55-19
The game featured the top four Heisman finalists, but Leinart rose to the top in the national title game rout. Leinart outplayed Adrian Peterson, and Jason White and threw for 332 yards and five touchdowns.
2001: QB Eric Crouch, Nebraska
The result: Nebraska 20-10
The Sooners corralled Crouch for much of the game. But in the fourth quarter, he hauled in a 63-yard touchdown off a double reverse pass to seal the Big Red victory and catapult Nebraska to the national title game.
2000: QB Chris Weinke, Florida State
The result: OU 13-2
During the coin toss, OU linebacker Torrance Marshall told Weinke that he stole his boy’s (QB Josh Heupel) trophy. Marshall and the Sooners then backed up their talk on the field. Against a tenacious OU defense, the 28-yard-old Weinke had the worst performance of his career, completing just 25 of 51 passes for 274 yards and three turnovers. Thanks to a defensive performance for the ages, the Sooners won their seventh national championship.
1998: RB Ricky Williams, Texas
The result: Texas 34-3
Against a hapless OU defense, Williams ran wild, scratching out 139 yards and two touchdowns on 31 carries in a game that was over by the third quarter.
1994: RB Rashaan Salaam, Colorado
The result: Colorado 45-7
Against the 22nd-ranked Sooners, Salaam racked up 161 yards and four touchdowns on 25 carries. The Sooners spiraled after the crushing defeat and finished 6-6 in Gary Gibbs’ final season.
1988: RB Barry Sanders, Oklahoma State
The result: OU 31-28
In perhaps the most epic Bedlam game, Sanders dazzled with 215 yards and two touchdowns. But thanks to a little Sooner Magic, Brent Parker dropped the game-winning touchdown in the end zone and OU held on for the narrow victory in Stillwater.
1986: QB Vinny Testaverde, Miami
The result: Miami 28-16
In a showdown featuring the No. 1- and No. 2-ranked teams, Testaverde was awesome, throwing for 261 yards and four touchdowns. He also completed a school-record 14 straight completions. Thanks in part to his OU performance, Testaverde went on to capture 70 percent of the Heisman vote, though Miami would miss out on the national title after losing to Penn State in the Fiesta Bowl.
1983: RB Mike Rozier, Nebraska
The result: Nebraska 28-21
Spearheaded by Rozier's 205 rushing yards, the Huskers came from behind twice to pull out the win in Norman. Rozier would finish as the all-time leading rusher in Big Eight history and became the second player in FBS history to top 2,000 yards in a season.
1981: RB Marcus Allen, USC
The result: USC 28-24
Against second-ranked OU, Allen and the top-ranked Trojans rallied with a late fourth-quarter touchdown drive to stun the Sooners with two seconds remaining. Allen led USC with 208 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
1977: RB Earl Campbell, Texas
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2011 record: 10-3 | 2011 conference record: 6-3 (Big 12)
OU’s all-time against Baylor: 20-1
Top returners: WR Terrance Williams, WR Tevin Reese, TE Jordan Najvar, OT Cyril Richardson, CB K.J. Morton, S Ahmad Dixon
Key losses: QB Robert Griffin III, RB Terrance Ganaway, WR Kendall Wright, C Phillip Blake, OG Robert T. Griffin, DT Nicolas Jean-Baptiste, DT Tracy Robertson, LB Elliot Coffey
2011 statistical leaders (*returners)
Rushing: Terrance Ganaway (1,347 yards)
Passing: Robert Griffin III (3,998 yards)
Receiving: Kendall Wright (1,572 yards)
Tackles: Elliot Coffey (114)
Sacks: Tracy Robertson (4.5)
Interceptions: K.J. Morton* (4)
What they’re saying: “It's been a phenomenal year for Baylor athletics. In general, I think our national brand is probably as good as it's ever been on a national level. I'm just thankful and happy to be a part of it. What we have to do now is maintain it, and that's where my inspiration, passion, and drive certainly is going to come from.” -- head coach Art Briles
Three things to watch:
1. It’s pretty much impossible to replace the best player in college football. After all, QB Robert Griffin III had the best football season in Baylor history. But the Bears must turn the page with Griffin in the NFL. The good news is that they have a veteran in senior Nick Florence. Briles praised Florence’s maturity at Big 12 media days. He doesn’t need to be RG3. But for Baylor to come close to the year it had last season, Florence will have to be good.
2. The Bears quietly picked up a transfer from running back Lache Seastrunk. The former No. 1 RB in Texas transferred to Baylor from Oregon last year, and now is eligible. The Bears have other backs, but Seastrunk could be a difference-maker who eases the sting of losing Griffin.
3. The Bears beat OU for the first time in 21 tries. How will Baylor handle that going to Norman? More importantly, how will OU handle it? The Sooners have been good in revenge games under Bob Stoops. Baylor better bring its best game.
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1. The NFL draft begins tonight at 7 p.m, and though it’s unlikely any Sooners will hear their names called during the first round, there will be plenty of familiar names coming off the board. Oklahoma’s defense was much maligned late last season but Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III, who torched the Sooners' secondary, is set to get selected No. 2 overall by Washington and Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon, who had 18 receptions for 200 yards and one touchdown in two games against OU, likely will be drafted in the top 10. ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper also has OSU quarterback Brandon Weeden going late in the first round. Clearly the Sooners weren’t the only team who struggled to stop Griffin or Weeden and Blackmon.
2. You have to wonder what it is like to be Landry Jones tonight. He could be walking across the stage to meet Roger Goodell, but instead he’s in class? There are several NFL teams looking for a quarterback in the draft and it’s easy to believe Jones would have been a top 10 pick if he had elected to declare early. Regardless, Sooners fans should be happy, they’ll have an NFL quarterback at the helm this fall, someone multiple NFL teams would love to have in their locker room.
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Well, Oklahoma State had a little something to do with it, but so did two huge positions in need of improvement.
Both cracked colleague Travis Haney's list of positions with the potential for huge growth in 2012.
First up, the Texas quarterbacks.
Texas seemed to indicate it would like for the more athletic [David] Ash to be the guy, even as a freshman, but he could not sustain enough consistency to win the job outright. And, really, Ash simply could not take care of the ball. He threw an interception every 21.8 passes. (The most efficient quarterback in 2011, Wisconsin's Russell Wilson, threw one every 77.3 throws.My take: I totally agree with this one. How much Ash improves is the big question. An offseason full of first-team reps will be extremely valuable -- he got almost none last year before being thrust into the role of starter as a true freshman. During spring camp last year, he was a fourth-stringer. He could get better, but Ash has never really looked the part of future superstar to me. Fortunately for the Longhorns, the team is good enough everywhere else it doesn't need him to be a superstar. If he's solid, but able to get the ball to Texas' playmakers like Jaxon Shipley and Mike Davis, the Longhorns will be a factor in the Big 12 race.
[Case] McCoy was more consistent in November, but no one was mistaking him for his older brother in terms of arm strength and accuracy. He did put up a 356-yard passing day in the loss to Baylor at the end of the regular season, but McCoy then gave way to Ash for the bowl victory against Cal. It was a yo-yo effect all season for the Horns, who would like to see one of the two emerge -- but still haven't really through spring ball.
Second, Haney looks at the Oklahoma defensive backs, who are under new direction this year with Mike Stoops.
Stoops has a variety of options for the different spots in the defensive backfield. Already, he has shifted Tony Jefferson from sam linebacker to free safety, his more natural position, and moved Javon Harris from free to strong safety. Harris was the goat in several games, including the Baylor debacle. Jefferson might be the most underrated defensive player in the Big 12 because he has yet to settle into one, specific position.My take: The league's best quarterbacks gave the Sooners all kinds of trouble last year, and it won't be much easier this year. Yeah, Brandon Weeden and Robert Griffin III are gone, but TCU's Casey Pachall and West Virginia's Geno Smith are the new guys very capable of tearing up anybody's secondary.
Another important piece of the OU defense, Aaron Colvin, missed the spring after minor shoulder surgery. He can play any of the secondary spots, again freeing up Mike Stoops to mix and match to find a solution for the big-play disease.
It's tough to know exactly what the problem for Oklahoma was. The Sooners could be dominant at times. They have the talent and athleticism. Most importantly, they have lots of experience. For OU, it's a matter of just doing it. Stoops will try to make it happen, but big improvement could result in a big, big year for the Sooners.
A national title, perhaps?
Quarterbacks' rushing talents are factored into these rankings. As such, it's tough to figure out how to weigh that vs. passing acumen. Ultimately, teams ranked 4-7 were really, really close.
In these position rankings, we take into account backups, though that impact is minimal at the quarterback spot.
If your quarterback wins the Heisman, you're not finishing below No. 1 on this list. Robert Griffin IIIlit up defenses and broke the NCAA record for passing efficiency, even though Wisconsin's Russell Wilson did the same this year, and finished higher than RG3. Even when RG3 suffered concussion-like symptoms against Texas Tech, backup Nick Florencecame in and burned Texas Tech's defense in a 66-42 win. Griffin finished with as many touchdowns as Brandon Weeden (37), but threw as few interceptions as Collin Klein (6), despite throwing the ball 121 more times than Klein.
2. Oklahoma State
Brandon Weeden is a solid second place in this ranking, and backup Colton Chelflooked good in lots of mop-up duty, too. Weeden was the star, putting together an All-Big 12 caliber season, though Griffin's otherworldly performance in 2011 knocked him off his first-team perch from 2010. He led the league with 4,727 yards and 37 touchdowns. He also had the second-most pass attempts in the league, with 564.
Landry Jones got some help late in the season when Blake Bell's BellDozer racked up a team-high 13 touchdowns. Jones wasn't outstanding late in the season after Ryan Broyles' knee injury, but his receivers didn't help him much, either. The dropsies seemed to infect everybody after Broyles' college career ended. Jones finished with 4,463 yards passing, second most in the Big 12. He also added 29 touchdowns but must improve on his 15 interceptions, a regression back to freshman-year Jones.
The SoonerNation staff is wrapping up Oklahoma's 10-3 season by answering 10 questions, just like we did during the Sooners' bye week in November. Today:
What was the Sooners' biggest disappointment of the season?
Widespread rules violations
This one is easy. The widespread lack of attention to the “little things,” as defensive captain Travis Lewis put it, leading to a number of players being asked to transfer in December. Injuries plagued the Sooners. But just as detrimental were the numerous suspensions, stemming from skipped workouts, missed classes and failed drug tests. The Sooners didn’t have the intangibles needed to compete for a national championship. Very disappointing.
- Jake Trotter
For a team expected to compete for a national championship, the Sooners didn’t approach every game to dominant their opponent. All too often they started slowly, seemingly with the belief they could just “turn it on” and win. Their slow start against Missouri was a perfect example and it finally caught up with them against Texas Tech when they ran into a 31-7 halftime deficit and couldn’t rally for the win.
- Brandon Chatmon
Lack of leadership
When things started to go downhill for OU, there was nobody there to bring that spark back to the team. Landry Jones is a great player, but it just feels like he doesn’t have the natural born leadership qualities. Defensive captain Travis Lewis went silent and stopped addressing the media after the loss to Texas Tech, something he even said might not have been the best idea in hindsight. Nobody could rally the troops together.
- Bob Przybylo
After giving themselves a clever nickname in the preseason, Oklahoma's defensive backs didn't play consistent enough to warrant the moniker. Despite having an abundance of talent, Oklahoma ranked No. 79 in pass defense in 2011, and the Sooners were burned several times through the air. OU gave up 452 passing yards to Seth Doege and Texas Tech in a loss, and 485 passing yards to eventual Heisman-winner Robert Griffin III and Baylor. The Sooners had solid individual performers - the corners Jamell Fleming and Demontre Hurst were mostly solid -- but they didn't perform well as a unit. There is hope for the Sooners' secondary, however. Mad Mike Stoops returns to tutor the defensive backs in 2012.
- Dane Beavers
What do you think? What was OU's biggest disappointment this season?
Oklahoma's three-year starter (give or take a few games) says he's coming back to Norman for his senior year and a fourth year behind center for the Sooners.
"I want to accomplish the goals that I set before I got here, and there is still a lot more to do," Jones said in a release. "I want to make sure I've exhausted every effort in that area. And I want to be a senior. I enjoy being at OU and with my teammates, and look forward to graduating with the guys that were in my class when I got here."
ESPN draft analysts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay both ranked Jones as their No. 3 quarterback in the upcoming NFL draft behind Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. Jones is 15th on Kiper's Big Board, and ranked 17th overall by McShay.
The Big 12 looks open for the taking in 2012, but Jones' decision makes it pretty simple: the Sooners will slide into the spot as the favorite.
They won't be heavy favorites as they were in 2011, but Oklahoma will have the preseason edge on Kansas State, TCU, West Virginia, Oklahoma State and Texas.
Now, the spotlight turns to Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III, who says he's undecided and plans to make his decision next week after meeting with coaches.
He's the final big piece of the Big 12 title race puzzle in 2012, but for now, the Sooners have the edge.
Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III is still undecided on his future, but he moved all the way up to No. 6 from No. 11 on Kiper's last Big Board update.
"Not buying any talk he'd be higher on some boards than Luck, but his altered delivery has resulted in better accuracy on downfield throws," Kiper wrote. "Great kid, underrated passer, big-time athlete. No ill effects from 2009 knee injury. Remarkable numbers."
That's an unbelievable rise for Griffin, who was nowhere to be found on the Big Board at midseason.
Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones simply slid up to No. 12 from his spot at No. 13 last week.
"I still like the way he's battled in 2011, but it's fair to say his reputation outpaced his performance this season," Kiper wrote. "Accuracy is still very good. Good size, strong arm but needs to improve footwork. Still a very good prospect."
Jones hasn't announced his decision, but Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said last week he expects Jones to stay. That's what he should do, too.
Justin Blackmon stuck at No. 5 on the Big Board.
On Baylor’s game-winning touchdown pass, Robert Griffin III showed why he’s earned the respect of Big 12 coordinators with his arm. The Bears quarterback threw from the left side of the field to the right corner of the endzone between OU safety Sam Proctor and cornerback Demontre Hurst.
It was a throw that few quarterbacks can make.
“I don’t even know how to explain it,” Hurst said of his thoughts when he saw the ball in the air. “I saw the ball thrown and it pretty much fell right into his hands. Watching film today I was sick to my stomach that he made a great pass like that. It was just an amazing throw.”
Film review in general was quite unpleasant for the Sooners secondary as they relived Griffin’s 479 passing yards in the upset victory.
“Watching it as a secondary we were pretty disgusted,” Hurst said. “Plays we could have prevented, just our eyes in the wrong spot. Watching it, it was pretty ugly but we have to man up to it, own up to it.”