Big 12: Tatum Bell
The Cowboys have done it with a star-studded array of top players who have dotted their rosters over the last few years, most notably at wide receiver and running back. I was left with a tough choice between Adarius Bowman or Dez Bryant as the second wide receiver behind Rashaun Woods. And at running back, I went over and over as I tried to decide between Kendall Hunter, Keith Toston or Vernand Morency to go along with Tatum Bell.
After some careful deliberation, here are my choices for the Cowboys' top players of the last decade.
QB: Zac Robinson
RB: Kendall Hunter
RB: Tatum Bell
WR: Rashaun Woods
WR: Dez Bryant
TE: Brandon Pettigrew
OL: Russell Okung
OL: Corey Hilliard
OL: Sam Mayes
OL: Charlie Johnson
C: David Washington
DL: Kevin Williams
DL: LaWaylon Brown
DL: Juqua Thomas
DL: Greg Richmond
LB: Terrence Robinson
LB: Dwayne Levels
LB: Patrick Lavine
DB: Perrish Cox
DB: Vernon Grant
DB: Elbert Craig
DB: Darrent Williams
K: Luke Phillips
P: Matt Fodge
Ret: Perrish Cox
Offensive player of the decade: WR Rashaun Woods. His emergence in the early part of the decade foreshadowed the Big 12’s development into the most pass-happy conference in the nation. Despite facing constant double-coverage, he produced 293 catches and was the first receiver in Big 12 history to reach 4,000 career receiving yards.
Defensive player of the decade: DT Kevin Williams. Excelled as a mainstay in the Cowboys’ defensive front, making 42 starts in his career. He helped transform the Cowboys’ defense into a tough run-stuffing unit, making 160 tackles and 18.5 sacks over his career.
Coach of the decade: Mike Gundy. His coaching career is no longer dominated by sound bites of eruptions at press conferences. Gundy has directed the Cowboys to four straight bowl trips and back-to-back nine-win seasons for the first time in 21 seasons.
Moment of the decade: Josh Fields directs 2001 comeback victory at Oklahoma. Fields came off the bench to rifle a 14-yard touchdown pass to Rashaun Woods with 1:36 left, and the Cowboys held on for a 16-13 victory. The Oklahoma State defense notched three interceptions and seven sacks of Nate Hybl and gave Bob Stoops his first home loss.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
It might be the most endangered species this side of the American bison.
True workhorse running backs are disappearing across the nation, but particularly in the Big 12.
It's a marked contrast from the past where many Big 12 teams would rely on one major back to account for much of its running production.
Even the expansion of spread offenses can't be blamed entirely for this predicament. If anything, the overabundance of passing attacks should make it easier for one back to dominate carries because most teams are utilizing fewer running plays than ever before.
Here's an indication of how skewed the statistics were last season in the Big 12. Only four backs accounted for at least 40 percent of their team's rushing totals.
Texas Tech's Shannon Woods led all Big 12 backs last season with 44.5 percent of his team's carries -- 141 totes among Texas Tech's 317 rushing attempts.That total is the smallest for a leader in the Big 12 in the conference's history.
Consider only four years ago that nine Big 12 backs accounted for 40 percent of their team's carries in 2004 and seven backs that season topped 50 percent of their team's running plays.
But in today's Big 12, coaches are opting to predominantly use a rotation of backs. Teams like Nebraska (Quentin Castille and Roy Helu Jr.), Oklahoma (DeMarco Murray and Chris Brown) and Texas (Vondrell McGee, Cody Johnson, Fozzy Whittaker and freshman Chris Whaley) all are expected to rotate carries in 2009.
Here's a look at how those numbers have changed during the Big 12's history.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Happy Friday afternoon. Here are some of the more interesting letters I received during the past week.
Adam: Would you care to make any comparisons between Oklahoma State's ultra-talented trio of Zac Robinson/Dez Bryant/Kendall Hunter to other OSU trio greats of Mike Gundy/Barry Sanders/Hart Lee Dykes and Josh Fields/Rashaun Woods/Tatum Bell?
Tim Griffin: Adam, I think it terms of total firepower, the Gundy/Sanders/Dykes grouping was the best, followed by the current group of Robinson/Bryant/Hunter with Fields/Bell/Woods ranking last.
The reason I give the 80s group the edge is because of Sanders. Earlier this week, a national web site said that Sanders was the second-greatest living Heisman winner behind only two-time winner Archie Griffin. His rushing numbers are still mind-boggling.
And it would be interesting to see how much better Hart Lee Dykes would have done if he played in today's era where passing is such an important part. Dykes was by far the second offensive option on those teams and he still had 60, 61 and 74 catches in his three seasons as a starter.
That being said, I think that Zac Robinson could go down in history as the greatest quarterback in OSU history and Dez Bryant's numbers will end up being as good as anybody. But as good as Hunter is, he's still no Sanders.
Chance from Memphis, Tenn., writes: Thanks for the heads up regarding the possible Minnesota home-and-home addition for Texas. Didn't Texas have Utah and Arkansas on the 2009 schedule at one time, and both opted out?
TG: Chance, yes they did. Texas had a planned series with Utah for 2008 and 2009 called off fby the Utes. And after beating the Razorbacks in 2008, Arkansas officials decided they didn't want to play Texas in 2009. Instead, the Razorbacks have asked that game to be pushed back until 2014 as they start a 10-year contract for games against Texas A&M at the new Dallas Cowboys' stadium in Arlington, Texas.
All of this doesn't do Mack Brown much good for this season. He might have to answer for his non-conference schedule which is packed with gooey treats like Louisiana-Monroe, Wyoming, UTEP and Central Florida.
If there's a close race in the BCS standings, something tells me that Brown will be doing a lot of spinning about his schedule during November.
Adam Nettina from Baltimore writes: Tim, Why the heck is Logan Dold moving the safety when he showed such promise as a running back? He was the second all-time leading rusher in Kansas high school history, was K-state's leading rusher in terms of yards per carry among regulars a year and runs the 100 in 10.9 seconds.
Yet, he's being replaced a senior who only ran for 3.8 yards per carry in limited duty a year ago and a redshirt freshmen with basically no on-field experience. So why make the move with Dold and not somebody else?
TG: Adam, I agree that I was a little surprised by the move of Dold, particularly considering his production last season. But I also know that Bill Snyder traditionally has favored small, quick backs like Darren Sproles. I'm wondering if he thinks that Keithen Valentine better suits his philosophy. And I also know that Jarell Childs has been a big surprise during spring practice.
Seth from New Haven, Conn., writes: Hey Tim, I'm a Yale student who just saw that Nebraska's Patrick Witt intends to transfer to New Haven. What should we expect to see from him?
TG: I get the feeling that Witt transferred to Yale more for academic reasons that for a chance to play. He had the opportunity to play at places like Duke and South Carolina and also considered UCLA. But I think his style will suit him at Yale, playing for Coach Jack Siedlecki.
Witt is a big, strong quarterback who has a strong arm for deep throws. Remember, he was the player who Bo Pelini turned to when Joe Ganz was injured for a few plays against Clemson in the Gator Bowl.
I'm not thinking that Witt will be heading to the Bulldogs with any sense of entitlement. And I'm also expecting he will be excited about continuing his career. So I wouldn't be surprised if he really thrived with his opportunity.
Preston Nix from Austin, Texas, writes: Tim, what keeps the Big 12 from trading Iowa State, Colorado, and/or Baylor for Utah, Boise State or other schools that could broaden the Big 12 market and make it a national powerhouse like the SEC seems to be?
TG: Mainly, it's tradition and the relationships that all of the schools have made with the others over the years. Iowa State was in the Big Eight with many of those other schools since 1928. Colorado was a member of the Big Eight from 1948. That's a lot of years for relationships.
And if Baylor hadn't come along with the other three schools from Texas when the Big 12 was formed, it's likely that none of them would because of the Bears' strong political power in the state legislature in Austin. Also, the complete sports programs of those schools - both in men's and women's sports - will be a factor in keeping them together.
I don't look for the Big 12 to break up any time soon. From everything I'm hearing, I think there's greater cohesiveness among the 12 partners who make up the league than ever before.
Joseph Hauss from College Station writes: Tim, I love your blog and read it every day. The 2009 season can't get here quickly enough. I just was wondering what your thoughts were about Mike Leach's comments about Stephen McGee? An A&M student I should be all against Tech. Unlike, many of my colleagues I find Mike Leach to be my kind of guy because he speaks his mind and isn't scared to. That being said, I believe he was actually complimenting McGee on his accomplishment but was inferring that he would have been using McGee's skills in the passing game since he stepped foot on campus in 2005.
TG: I think that Leach's compliment was a backhanded swipe at McGee's previous and current coaching staff. And I've got to think there's a tad of envy for Leach in the fact that McGee, who started two games last season, was drafted in the fourth round.
Meanwhile, Graham Harrell, the prototypical quarterback for Leach's offense went undrafted despite setting a FBS career record for most career touchdown passes.
I've got to wonder if there might be a fear for Leach and the Red Raiders that Harrell's failure to be drafted might hurt the school in returning at a later time. But it seems like top quarterbacks always end up playing for the Red Raiders. It's just that the elite ones might have been more willing to make that move if Harrell had been a higher draft selection.
R.W. Dobbins of Oklahoma City writes: Jermaine Gresham as the best tight end in Oklahoma history? Well considering Keith Jackson was the best tight end in the history of any school, you might be a little off.
TG: I appreciate your response, but remember, I said that if Gresham had a huge year he could be remembered as Oklahoma's greatest tight end. I still think that is the case.
Jackson was a great athlete who averaged 23.7 yards per reception. But he also benefited from defenses which were stacked to stop the Sooners' wishbone offense when he was playing. And also remember that Jackson had 62 catches in his career. Gresham had 66 catches and 14 touchdowns last season.
I realize that football is different today than when Jackson was playing. But Gresham can be just as valuable and could earn All-America status with a big season this year. And he probably deserved it last season.
Benson from Washington, D.C., writes: Tim, I loved following the draft and I noticed that Missouri had more players picked than any team from the Big 12. Has that ever happened before? Also, was their total the most ever picked in one draft for a Big 12 team and was it the most ever for Missouri in one draft?
TG: Benson, you're right. Missouri had the most players picked in the Big 12 with six draftees. But it wasn't the most in school history. That came in 1981 and 1943 when the Tigers had seven players selected. And both of those drafts were significantly bigger than today's current seven-round draft. The NFL went 12 rounds deep in 1981 and 32 rounds in 1943.
The Tigers' haul last weekend still didn't match Oklahoma's Big 12 record of 11 players that were picked in 2005.
Thanks again for all of the letters. Enjoy your weekend and I'll be checking back again next week.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Oklahoma State doesn't have as much football history as some Big 12 schools, but the Cowboys still have several worthy candidates who belong on the school's version of Mount Rushmore for Cowboy football greats.
And I didn't consider T. Boone Pickens, despite his megabuck support for the school over the years, limiting inclusion to players and coaches.
Here are my four picks:
- Barry Sanders -- A starter for only the 1988 season, but what a season it was. Sanders averaged 7.6 yards per carry and rushed for a then-college football record 2,628 rushing yards and 37 touchdowns, capping the season with the Heisman Trophy.
- Thurman Thomas -- A two-time All-American tailback who left school with a record 4,595 rushing yards.
- Bob Fenimore -- The legendary "Blonde Bomber" was Oklahoma State's first two-time All-American. He led the nation in rushing with 1,048 yards in 1945, finishing third in Heisman balloting.
- Mike Gundy -- Four-season starter at quarterback from 1986-89 who became the career passing leader in Oklahoma State and Big 12 history when he left school. And his coaching has been noteworthy -- even with the controversy -- after three straight bowl trips and a chance for perhaps the school's most notable season in 2009.
There could have been a space on Oklahoma State's Mount Rushmore for Terry Miller, Dez Bryant, Tatum Bell, Jon Kolb or Leslie O'Neal. But in the end, I could pick only four.
And the four selected, I think, best represent the school.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Last week's victory over Missouri pushed Oklahoma State into the rarefied air of a potential national title contender. The Cowboys will be going for their first 7-0 start since 1945 when they meet Baylor today in Stillwater, Okla. It's the only previous time in school history that they started so quickly.
But today's date has featured some other previously huge conquests in Oklahoma State history. Here are a couple of the more notable.
Oct. 18, 1958: Oklahoma State 7, Houston 0 (Houston) -- Third-string quarterback Dan Wagner accounted for the game's only touchdown as the determined Cowboys beat Houston. OSU's defense turned aside Houston drives at their 20-, 37-, 1-, 7- and 22-yard lines to preserve the shutout. The Cowboys won despite producing only 139 yards of total offense. Incredibly, OSU had only 13 plays from scrimmage in the second half.
Oct. 18, 2003: No. 18 Oklahoma State 51, Texas Tech 49 (Stillwater, Okla.) -- Tatum Bell rushed for 238 yards and three touchdowns to lead the 6-1 Cowboys to the wild triumph over the Red Raiders. Bell's 95-yard first-half touchdown run helped stake the Cowboys to a 35-14 halftime lead, but Tech charged back. Quarterback B.J. Symons passed for 552 yards and five touchdowns as Tech rebounded from a 27-point deficit for a chance to win late in the game. But OSU defensive back Jon Holland's interception with 1:05 left sealed the victory for the Cowboys.