Big 12: Irving Fryar

The best Big 12 players in NFL history

May, 29, 2009

Posted by's Tim Griffin

As anybody who reads this blog on a regular basis understands by now, I see numbers and statistics as a way of explaining a lot of things about sports.

A whole generation of analysts has constructed brand new ideas in baseball because of the work of sabermetricians like former Kansas student Bill James.

Football doesn't quiet have that wealth of study, mainly because there aren't as many numbers available.

But there are a growing segment of analysts out there doing more and more work on football analysis.

My wife got me a book over the weekend which I read while I was down at the beach over Memorial Day. Sean Lahman's "The Pro Football Historical Abstract" used some Jamesian methodology to rank the top pro players in history at their positions, among other things.

And bringing some of Lahman's study into closer focus, I was particularly interested in how players from Big 12 schools ranked among his career lists at various positions.

Here's a position-by-position glance at the top Big 12 players in NFL history, according to Lahman's rankings.


12. Bobby Layne (Texas)
27. Troy Aikman (started at Oklahoma, UCLA)
28. John Hadl (Kansas)
62. Steve Grogan (Kansas State)
63. Kordell Stewart (Colorado)
100. Bernie Masterson (Nebraska)

Running backs

2. Barry Sanders (Oklahoma State)
5. Thurman Thomas (Oklahoma State)
21. Earl Campbell (Texas)
30. Roger Craig (Nebraska)
32. John Riggins (Kansas)
38. Priest Holmes (Texas)
45. Ahman Green (Nebraska)
54. Larry Brown (Kansas State)
98. Gale Sayers (Kansas)
99. James Wilder (Missouri)

Wide receivers

17. Cliff Branch (Colorado)
27. Del Shofner (Baylor)
47. Irving Fryar (Nebraska)
48. Mel Gray (Missouri)
49. Dave Parks (Texas Tech)

Tight Ends

6. Kellen Winslow (Missouri)
14. Keith Jackson (Oklahoma)
34. Henry Childs (Kansas State)
49. Paul Coffman (Kansas State)

Offensive linemen

7. Will Shields (Nebraska)
32. Richmond Webb (Texas A&M)
34. Bob Brown (Nebraska)
39. Bob Young (Started at Howard Payne, Texas, Texas State)
46. John Wooten (Colorado)

Defensive linemen

18. Ron McDole (Nebraska)
19. Steve McMichael (Texas)
43. Ray Childress (Texas A&M)


2. Mike Singletary (Baylor)
26. Andy Russell (Missouri)
28. Jack Pardee (Texas A&M)
29. Zach Thomas (Texas Tech)
30. Leslie O'Neal (Oklahoma State)

Defensive backs

16. Yale Lary (Texas A&M)
21. Pat Fischer (Nebraska)
36. Roger Wehrli (Missouri)


20. Bobby Layne (Texas)

Kickoff returners

2. Glyn Milburn (Started at Oklahoma, Stanford)
4. Dante Hall (Texas A&M)
7. Tyrone Hughes (Nebraska)
10. Gale Sayers (Kansas)

Punt returners

5. Eric Metcalf (Texas)
12. Glyn Milburn (Oklahoma, Stanford)

Combined kick returners

11. Dante Hall (Texas A&M)
14. Mike Nelms (Started at Baylor, Sam Houston State)
24. Dick Todd (Texas A&M)



5. Verne Lewellen (Nebraska)
7. Glenn Presnell (Nebraska)


10. Guy Chamberlin (Started at Nebraska Wesleyan, Nebraska)


1. Link Lyman (Nebraska)


3. Ox Emerson (Texas)


5. Charley Brock (Nebraska)
6. Frank Bausch (Kansas)


4. Tom Landry (Texas)
53. Jack Pardee (Texas A&M)
72. Guy Chamberlin (Nebraska Wesleyan, Nebraska)

I had a chance to see many of these players as my frame of reference for the NFL goes back to about 1964, when I was 5 years old. The only one that really shocked me was how low Gale Sayers was ranked among running backs. I grew up watching the Chicago Bears and saw almost every one of Sayers' pro games. I find it hard to believe there were 97 better running backs in NFL history than him.

One fact that was interesting from this list was the number of running backs and linemen that were Big 12 products, in comparison with quarterbacks and receivers. In the old days, the Big Eight and Southwest conferences always had reputations based on stout running games. I think that will change in the future because of the conference's growing aerial status.

Obviously, there will be other Big 12 players who will be able to make the list in the future. It would be a shock if we don't see Adrian Peterson charging into the best backs in NFL history. It wouldn't surprise me if Michael Crabtree was able to be that kind of player. Maybe Jason Smith, too.

But it's always interesting to me to see the kind of work that Lahman has developed on a grand scale for the NFL and compare it to the Big 12 schools.  

I just wish some other researchers would feel as passionate about college football history, too.

The best NFL players for each Big 12 team

April, 22, 2009

Posted by's Tim Griffin

I got a lot of good feedback last week after I detailed a post that listed the top NFL player from each Big 12 school in the modern era.

ESPN Stats & Information went back through every draft of the modern era -- since the NFL-AFL merger -- to determine the players who accomplished the most during their NFL careers.

The rankings were based on the following criteria: Hall of Fame induction, MVP awards, All-Pro first-team selections, All-Pro second-team selections, Pro Bowls, offensive and defensive player of the year and rookie of the year awards and membership on a Super Bowl-winning or -losing team. A player scores on the ranking system when he earns at least one of those honors.

Specifically, this was the criteria that was used:


Players received points based on the following criteria, coming up with rankings for the 13,808 NFL players who have played since 1967:

Super Bowl loss (1 point)
Offensive rookie of the year (2 points)
Defensive rookie of the year (2 points)
Pro Bowl (2 points)
Super Bowl win (3 points)
AP All-Pro second team (3 points)
AP All-Pro first team (4 points)
AP Defensive Player of the Year (6 points)
AP Offensive Player of the Year (6 points)
AP Most Valuable Player (8 points)
Hall of Famer (15 points)

After popular demand, here's how the formula calculated the five most valuable NFL players produced from each Big 12 school. I'm curious what some of your thoughts about these players and others might be.

Remember, this includes only players who were drafted. So free agents like Wes Welker were not included.


Mike Singletary 81
Mike Nelms 22
Vann McElroy 10
Gary Green 8
Thomas Everett 8


Dick Anderson 30
Cliff Branch 29
Mark Haynes 23
Chad Brown 15
Charles Johnson 14
Alfred Williams 12


Matt Blair 18
Keith Sims 9
Marcus Robertson 5
Otto Stowe 4
Karl Nelson 3


John Riggins 25
Dana Stubblefield 24
Nolan Cromwell 21
Leroy Irvin 15
Larry Brown 14


Larry Brown 34
Martin Gramatica 8
Barrett Brooks 3
Clarence Scott 2
Henry Childs 2
Terence Newman 2


Roger Wehrli 44
Kellen Winslow 40
Eric Wright 23
Russ Washington 16
Mel Gray 12


Will Shields 44
Roger Craig 30
Neil Smith 28
Irving Fryar 17
John Dutton 13


Lee Roy Selmon 46
Keith Jackson 28
Billy Sims 14
Roy Williams 14
Adrian Peterson 13
Greg Pruitt 13


Barry Sanders 93
Thurman Thomas 60
Kevin Williams 24
Leslie O'Neal 16
Dexter Manley 13


Earl Campbell 65
Doug English 21
Steve McMichael 21
Bill Bradley 17
John Elliott 16


Shane Lechler 31
Lester Hayes 29
Richmond Webb 28
Ray Childress 26
Sam Adams 13


Zach Thomas 40
Curtis Jordan 4
Dylan Gandy 3
Maury Buford 3
Ted Watts 3
Timmy Smith 3

Source: ESPN Stats & Analysis Team

Where are the draftable Nebraska wide receivers?

January, 28, 2009

Posted by's Tim Griffin

Lincoln Journal-Star columnist Steve Sipple had a thought-provoking blog post earlier today about the scarcity of Nebraska wide receivers who have been picked in the NFL draft in recent seasons.

Obviously, the Cornhuskers' run-heavy philosophies for many years have hindered them from recruiting great athletes at the position. Hence, they had few players who later ended up being picked in the draft.

Sipple's research shows that only seven Nebraska wide receivers have been picked since 1984, when Irving Fryar was the No. 1 pick in the draft. No Cornhusker wide receiver has been a first-day selection since then.

The Cornhuskers' most recent wide receiver to be drafted was Bobby Newcombe, who was picked in the sixth round by Arizona in 2001. Newcombe came to Nebraska as a quarterback prospect before he was beaten out for the starting position by Eric Crouch.

Nate Swift will receive the next opportunity after he was invited to the NFL combine. Sipple reports that players who work at the combine have a 64 percent chance of being drafted, according to NFL figures.

Swift was a useful receiver in 2008, snagging team-leading totals of 63 receptions, 941 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns. He's also versatile because he plays both outside and in the slot and is an underrated blocker.

If Nebraska offensive coordinator Shawn Watson remains in Nebraska for several more seasons, I'm thinking it might be a good place for a young receiver to learn the position and eventually develop into a draftable commodity.

But Watson figures to be on the fast track for a future head coaching opportunity if the Cornhuskers' offense progresses like it has the last two seasons with him calling plays.

Even with that, I would think Bo Pelini would prefer a more pass-happy offensive attack in upcoming seasons. Which should lead to better players and more potential draftees playing for the Cornhuskers in future seasons.

Cornhuskers refuse to bite on NMSU's trash talk

September, 9, 2008

Posted by's Tim Griffin

Nothing like a little good-natured trash talk to pump some life into what would appear to be a blowout game.

New Mexico State cornerback Davon House told the Associated Press earlier this week that his secondary is well-prepared to face Nebraska on Saturday in Lincoln, Neb., because "we believe our receivers are 10 times better than their receivers."

Nebraska wide receiver Nate Swift declined to respond to the comment when asked by reporters Tuesday.

When Swift was told of House's comments, the AP reported he let out a chuckle and said he wouldn't getting into a bragging match with the New Mexico State player.

Here's a few other statistics that House might want to keep in mind before opening his mouth again. Nebraska has outscored New Mexico State by a combined margin of 125-0 in the only two previous games of the series between the two teams.

In their most recent game against the Cornhuskers in 1982, Nebraska rolled up 883 yards of total offense, including 677 yards on the ground en route to a 68-0 trip to the woodshed.

And the Aggies are 14-95-2 all-time against BCS-affiliated schools and 1-18 since the Bowl Championship Series was implemented in 1998.

There likely aren't many standouts on Nebraska's roster this season who can match Nebraksa legends like Mike Rozier, Turner Gill and Irving Fryar from that 1982 team.

But it's still probably wise not to rile them up, either.

Big 12 links: Bottom-feeders kick off 2008 season tonight

August, 28, 2008

Posted by's Tim Griffin

The season finally arrives tonight in the Big 12 and not a moment too soon.

A rare chance in the spotlight will be provided tonight for South Division basement dweller Baylor and their counterparts from the North, Iowa State.

Baylor will kick off the season with a difficult matchup against No. 23 Wake Forest tonight in Waco. The game is interesting for a several reasons. Art Briles will start his coaching career at Baylor after leading Houston to four bowl appearances in the last five seasons. Both schools are Baptist-affiliated. And Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe was a finalist for the Baylor job when the Bears hired Guy Morriss back in 2002.

The Demon Deacons have shown that football transformations are possible, winning the Atlantic Coast Conference two seasons ago and making another bowl trip last season for the first back-to-back postseason appearances in school history. Baylor is only dreaming about that kind of success.

And Iowa State will start the season against Division I-AA South Dakota State in a game where coach Gene Chizik will play with 27 freshmen and sophomores in his two-deep roster. Included among those are sophomore quarterbacks Austen Arnaud and Phillip Bates, who both will receive snaps tonight against the Jackrabbits.   

I can't wait for the start of the season -- even if it means a three-hour drive to Waco this afternoon to get to Floyd Casey Stadium. But I actually think the journey along Interstate 35 will go by quickly because of my anticipation and the new Jimmy Buffett CD that my wife got me for our anniversary.    

So until then, here are some morning links to satisfy your hunger pangs before kickoff.

  • Briles is looking to become the first football coach since 1993 to win his first game at the school. Chuck Reedy was the last Baylor coach to win his first game, stunning No. 25 Fresno State, 42-39.
  • Former Miami QB Kirby Freeman has seen the transformation in the Wake Forest program after notching a 47-17 victory over the Demon Deacons as a freshman in 2005. "They've come a long way since then," Freeman told the Waco Tribune-Herald.  "I saw some of those guys three years ago and now they're seniors. They're a mature football team and won't be rattled."
  • Iowa State coaches are bracing for a big change as they try to keep up with the new 40-second clock in the Cyclones' opener tonight against South Dakota State. "You've got to stay a play ahead," Iowa State defensive coordinator Wayne Bolt told the Des Moines Register. "It's going to be interesting to see what happens. It's a different game."
  • Revelers at Kansas' Memorial Stadium will pay $20 per car this season for a parking space in a tailgate-friendly area that had been free last season, the Lawrence Journal-World reports.
  • Lincoln Journal-Star reporter Brian Christopherson writes about the career gamble that Nebraska defensive coordinator Carl Pelini took five years ago to transition from being a successful high school coach into one who now is working in college football.
  • Former Nebraska standout WR Irving Fryar will be on the sidelines for Western Michigan's game with his old school. But Fryar will be on the opposing sideline, watching his son, CB Londen Fryar play with the Broncos. "I took a DVD [of Londen playing high school football] and put it in the hand of Coach [Bill] Callahan," Irving told the Kalamazoo (Mich.) Gazette. "I never got a call. ... I was very disappointed with the way Coach Callahan handled that."
  • The Dallas Morning News releases its innovative college football preview, complete with a picture of Dallas-area standouts Michael Crabtree and Graham Harrell of Texas Tech. The picture must have been taken early, because Harrell still shows the remnants of his early-summer Mohawk.
  • The Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Jimmy Burch writes about what to expect and not expect around the Big 12 this season.
  • Texas coach Mack Brown got to practice on his 57th birthday Wednesday -- and the chance to visit with media members again.
  • Brent Zwerneman of the San Antonio Express-News writes that the NFL could be in Texas A&M QB Stephen McGee's future.
  • Jake Trotter of the Oklahoman writes about the transformation of Oklahoma LB Mike Balogun from a construction worker who didn't play his junior or senior years in high school to a college football player. Interesting story indeed.
  • Tom Shatel of the Omaha World Herald has an interesting take on Bo Pelini's emerging legendary status at Nebraska -- even before starting his first full season directing the Cornhuskers.
  • Take a look at the Omaha World Herald's video version of "Big Red Today" with analysis by their army of reporters who cover the Cornhuskers. It's the best video production by a newspaper I've seen.
  • Missouri's experienced defense is giving them a chance to attack offenses with a combination of line shifts, zone blitzes and innovative coverage schemes, Columbia Daily Tribune beat writer Dave Matter writes.
  • Colorado WR Josh Smith has some big plans -- hoping for his own clothing line "Josh Fly" and shoe line "PF Fly's" and a record deal. But his biggest immediate aim is to score his first touchdown for the Buffaloes.
  • The Oklahoman's Berry Tramel writes about Oklahoma State's intention to live up to its "Finish" slogan after struggling in several fourth-quarter meltdowns last season.
  • Kansas State's defense has made its primary focus attacking the spread offense with speed, Wichita Eagle/Kansas City Star reporter Jeffrey Martin writes.