With so many former greats who made an impact on the Oklahoma Sooners football program during Bob Stoops’ reign in Norman, we keep the ball rolling and recognize the next 10 players in our list of the 30 best Sooners in the last 18 seasons. Check out Part 1 if you haven’t seen it already.
We begin with a record-setting quarterback from Artesia, New Mexico.
20. Landry Jones (QB, 2009-2012)
Landry Jones had the unenviable task of following Heisman winner Sam Bradford’s reign at OU, but he finished his career as the school’s all-time leader in career passing yards with 16,646 — good enough for third all-time in FBS history — along with career touchdowns (123) and passing yards in a single game (554). With a smooth and effortless throwing motion, Jones, despite some moments of questionable decision-making, was blessed with great arm talent and went unbeaten as a starter against Texas, going 3-0 from 2010-12.
His best collegiate season came as a sophomore in 2010 when he led the Sooners to a 12-2 record and a Fiesta Bowl win that followed a classic comeback win against Nebraska in the last Big 12 Championship Game (until the conference chose to perplexingly bring it back for 2017).
19. Eric Striker (LB, 2012-15)
A fierce, fearless and outspoken leader of the OU defense, the undersized but overachieving Eric Striker is likely still giving A.J. McCarron nightmares of that January night in New Orleans. Through his collegiate career that included All-American honors and a College Football Playoff appearance in 2015, Striker ranks first in sacks among all linebackers in school history — behind only defensive ends Jeremy Beal and Dan Cody for third overall in the Bob Stoops era.
Striker loved to terrorize the SEC, which is sure to make Coach Stoops smile for years, and his performances against Alabama and Tennessee (twice) rank among the program’s best and most memorable in the last 18 seasons.
18. Mark Clayton (WR, 2001-04)
A finalist for the Biletnikoff Award as junior in 2003, Mark Clayton’s career as Bob Stoops’ first great wide receiver has become a victim of recency bias following the more recent successes of Ryan Broyles, Sterling Shepard and Dede Westbrook. Earning national recognition for his spectacular abilities in the open field and his knack for gaining huge chunks of yardage after the catch, Clayton was one of the most elusive wideouts in college football history.
Clayton’s single-season marks of 1,425 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns in 2003 rank third and second respectively in school history. Named an All-American as a junior and senior as Jason White’s go-to guy, Clayton was one of the nation’s most exciting players to watch in OU’s back-to-back undefeated regular seasons and BCS title game appearances in 2003 and ’04, and was drafted 22nd overall by the Ravens in 2005.
17. Sterling Shepard (WR, 2012-15)
Standout Sooner football legacy and all-time fan favorite Sterling Shepard will forever be remembered as one of the most clutch and complete wide receivers the program has ever featured. Finishing his OU career with 233 receptions for 3,482 yards and 26 touchdowns, Shep was one of the nation’s best wideouts in 2015 and helped make Baker Mayfield’s transition into OU’s starting role at quarterback much easier.
Shep, picked 40th overall by the Giants in 2016, enjoyed a breakout rookie season and should continue to shine in The Big Apple as one of the league’s best young receivers.
16. Teddy Lehman (LB, 2000-03)
Two-time consensus All-American and 2003 Butkus Award winner Teddy Lehman will go down as one of the most memorable linebackers in the modern era. Lehman led the team with 117 tackles and a whopping 19 tackles for loss as a senior in ‘03 and helped OU to back-to-back undefeated regular seasons in his last two years as a Sooner.
He concluded his career with two consecutive BCS title game appearance and was named the winner of the 2003 Chuck Bednarik Award, which recognizes the nation’s top defensive player.
15. Quentin Griffin (RB, 1999-02)
Although narrowly missing the cut in our broader ranking of the greatest Texans to ever play at OU we published last month (he’s ahead of some Texans that made that list), Q’s importance and significant contributions in the Stoops era cannot be overstated. A diminutive but dynamic talent who amassed 5,275 all-purpose yards from 1999-2002, Griffin finished his impactful Oklahoma career with 3,938 rushing yards, 1,337 receiving yards and 51 touchdowns, and currently ranks sixth all-time in rushing and fourth in all-purpose yardage in school history.
Q helped announce to the country that OU football was back with his school-record six touchdowns in the 2000 Red River Rivalry. He then memorably found the end zone in the BCS Championship Game against Florida State. He also enjoyed the third-best rushing season in school history with 1,884 yards and 15 rushing touchdowns in 2002 and was drafted in the fourth round by the Broncos in ‘03. Unfortunately, his NFL career was shortened due to injury, as he may have otherwise gone on to be a productive back for multiple years.
14. Ryan Broyles (WR, 2008-11)
A silky-smooth playmaker who enjoyed one of the most prolific careers for a wide receiver in college football history, Norman native Ryan Broyles set the NCAA’s all-time career receptions record in 2011 (which was broken by East Carolina’s Justin Hardy in 2014). Named a two-time Biletnikoff Award finalist and All-American during his time under Bob Stoops, Broyles’ ridiculous marks of 349 career receptions, 4,586 receiving yards and 45 touchdowns top the record books at Oklahoma.
Broyles’ career, though cut short by a knee injury with a month to go in his senior season, was the most productive at his position in school history. Clayton and Shepard were perhaps a bit flashier, but Broyles was a much better playmaker than he is usually given credit for. Additionally, he’s one of the best route-runners I’ve ever seen at the collegiate level (not that Clayton or Shepard were slouches in that regard).
13. Samaje Perine (RB, 2014-16)
The soft-spoken but hard-nosed Samaje Perine goes down as one of the strongest, most physical running backs to play college football during his time. The Sooners’ all-time leading rusher and the FBS single-game rushing record holder, despite sometimes being overshadowed by the dynamic Joe Mixon in 2015 and ’16, saved some of his biggest performances for games against OU’s chief rivals Texas and Oklahoma State.
Impressing all with his eye-popping NFL Combine weight workouts, Perine enters his rookie season with a real shot to become the Washington Redskins’ starter in 2017.
12. Derrick Strait (CB, 2000-03)
The best cornerback to ever play for Bob Stoops, Derrick Strait’s shining collegiate career at Oklahoma began with a national championship as a freshman in 2000 and concluded with being named the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year along with unanimous first-team All-America honors, the Jim Thorpe Award and the Bronko Nagurski Trophy as a senior in 2003.
Strait’s 14 interceptions rank second to Zack Sanchez’s 15 as the most-ever in the Bob Stoops era, and the Austin, Texas, native earned a spot on Sports Illustrated’s All-Decade Team in 2009.
11. DeMarco Murray (Running back, 2006-10)
Had DeMarco Murray suffered one less injury and played in one more bowl game during his star-crossed Sooner career, he would’ve likely left OU a national champion, entered the NFL Draft as a first-round pick and in an entirely different conversation of college football’s all-time greatest running backs. Instead, in his four outstanding collegiate seasons, the premier all-purpose back during the Bob Stoops era set the school record in all-purpose yards (6,718) and touchdowns (65).
Murray finished his career as the Sooners’ sixth all-time rusher and currently ranks seventh in school history with 3,685 yards and 50 rushing touchdowns. A first-round talent, Murray’s injuries caused him to slip to the Cowboys in the third round of the 2011 NFL Draft, but he went on to lead the league in rushing with Dallas in 2014. Entering his second season with the Tennessee Titans in 2017, the Las Vegas product continues to shine among the top backs in the NFL.
Come back soon for the final part of our tribute to the greatest Sooners of the Stoops era. And as always, be sure to comment with your own opinions and memories of these OU legends.