Oklahoma is putting the final touches on its 2015 class, but it has had some stellar classes during the past 15 years.
The Sooners have had three class ranked in the top three and have finished out of the top 15 only once since 2001.
The best class in those years, though? That would have to be the 2010 class, which ranked second in the entire country and averaged 3.83 stars-per-signee.
A hefty 29-signee class that included five top-50 signees and 19 players from the Scout Top 300, the 2010 grouping opened the door to California for the Sooners. Oklahoma had signed just one player from California from 2003 to 2009 but hauled in a trio in 2010 that changed the Sooners’ recruiting landscape: Kenny Stills, Tony Jefferson and Brennan Clay.
They were best friends who made Oklahoma an option for California kids. Since the signatures of Stills, Jefferson and Clay dried, Oklahoma has signed nine players from California in just three years, including the top running back and wide receiver from the talent-rich state last season.
All three California players went on to NFL careers, but they were far from the only ones.
The 2010 class produced eight players that made an NFL roster – and six that are still on a team. Six more players have a chance to join the NFL during or after this year’s draft: Geneo Grissom, Chuka Ndulue, Adam Shead, Daryl Williams, Blake Bell and Tyrus Thompson.
Oklahoma’s best class in the past 15 years could have a dozen players in the NFL next season – more than 33 percent of the original class.
The group also produced many of the all-time fan favorites.
Bell – the BellDozer – won a pair of Bedlam games as a quarterback and unselfishly switched to tight end his senior season, and fullback Trey Millard is one of the most adored players in school history. Williams, Thompson, Shead and Bronson Irwin became the Sooners line for three years when healthy.
In total, 19 players from the class played significant roles during careers that culminated for most with the Sooners in a Sugar Bowl victory against Alabama – there it is again.
The only knock: The one thing the 2010 class failed to do was produce on a team level. The worst four-year span under Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops came from 2011 to 2014.
The group won two Big 12 championships (in 2010 and 2012) but the majority of the class had little impact in the first one. It was a great group, but one that fell short of team-oriented expectations. The group lost a lot to transfers and injuries as well - some of the top-rated players didn’t or could finish their careers in collegiate Norman.
The Full List:
Blake Bell - No. 4 QB: Bell finished his career with 32 total touchdowns and became the first Sooner to score passing, rushing and receiving. He will be forever etched in Oklahoma lore as the ‘BellDozer.’
Corey Nelson - No. 4 OLB: Nelson is playing with the Denver Broncos. He lost the second half of his senior season to injury (partially torn pectoral muscle) and finished his career at Oklahoma with 155 tackles and 7.5 sacks.
Brennan Clay - No. 6 RB: After recording 12 touchdowns and averaging more than 5.5 yards per carry in his final two seasons with the Sooners, the undersized back with remarkable toughness in the hole was signed by the Broncos before being cut.
Bronson Irwin - No. 3 OG: Irwin started at three positions his senior year, a truly gifted feat. He didn’t make an NFL roster for the regular season but was invited to camp by Seattle and Houston. Irwin was as talented as he was diverse.
Austin Woods - No.5 C: Woods won his battle with cancer as a junior, and although never became a staple of elite on-field success, he’s an inspiration that goes far beyond the football field. He served as a deep snapper two years ago.
Adam Shead - No. 7 OG: For the first time in a while, Shead played out an entire season. He was Oklahoma’s best interior run blocker and helped lead the best offensive line in the country this season.
Austin Haywood – No. 7 TE: Haywood transferred from Oklahoma after two years as a back-up, just before he was slotted to take the starting tight end spot.
Tony Jefferson – No. 8 OLB: One of the most productive members of the class, Jefferson recently finished his second season with the Arizona Cardinals. He had 78 tackles for Arizona as a safety after being signed as an undrafted free agent.
Kenny Stills – No. 9 WR: After being selected in the fifth round of the NFL Draft two years ago by the New Orleans Saints, Stills hauled in more than 900 yards this season and has eight career touchdowns.
Aaron Franklin - No. 13 OLB: Franklin played in 45 games during his Oklahoma career – at least 10 in every season. He never developed into a full-time player but provided depth his entire career.
Tyrus Thompson - No. 18 OT: Thompson will hear his name called in April, and it’s because of a fantastic senior season. He allowed just one sack all year – likely to the first pass rusher taken off the board in the NFL Draft.
Daryl Williams - No. 19 OT: The Sooners’ leader, mostly by example, Williams was the captain of Oklahoma’s offensive line that allowed a nation-best eight sacks all season and averaged more than five yards on the ground.
Roy Finch - No. 20 RB: Another player who developed into a fan favorite, Finch was explosive in open field. He averaged more than 25 yards per return on kickoffs and signed with the New England Patriots as an undrafted free agent.
Eric Humphrey – No. 20 DT: Transferred after the 2011 season.
Daniel Noble – No. 24 DT: After working his way into the rotation as a true freshman and being looked upon as a starter for his sophomore season, Noble’s playing career was cut short because of a concussion-related issues.
James Haynes – No. 25 CB: Transferred after the 2011 season.
Torrea Peterson - No. 27 DT: Peterson never gave Oklahoma what it hoped for during his career. He was a depth player but found himself at the bottom of the depth chart to start and end his final season with the Sooners. Geneo Grissom - No. 27 DE: Grissom wasted a season trying to become a tight end and missed the end of his senior year with an MCL sprain. Still, he has a good chance to make an NFL roster next year.
Trey Millard – No. 19 MLB: Nobody was more valuable to the Sooners two seasons ago than Millard, who exemplified everything a coach could want in a player. He made an NFL roster as a fullback because of it and paved the way for players like Aaron Ripkowski and Dimitri Flowers.
Aaron Colvin - No. 30 CB: He’s still playing football, even after battling through injuries for much of his career at Oklahoma. Colvin is currently holding down one of the starting corner back spots with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Joe Powell – No. 33 WR: Powell was charged with a drug-related felony in 2012 and was removed from the team.
Rashod Favors - No. 38 OLB: Like Peterson, Favors was another player who was swallowed up in a depth role. He played sparingly for Oklahoma.
Quentin Hayes - No. 38 S: Hayes had his fair share of off-the-field troubles but worked his way back to start all 25 games in his final two seasons.
Damon Williams – No. 46 DT: Left the program after the 2012 season.
Chuka Ndulue - No. 55 DE: Ndulue became one of the most consistent player on the Sooners’ roster over the past two years. He started 32 games in his career and finished his last three years with at least 42 tackles and five tackles for loss.
Trey Franks - No. 65 CB: Franks switched to receiver and played out of the slot after working through off-the-field issues. He was a skilled special teams player.
Sheldon McClain – No. 88 WR: Transferred after the 2011 season.
Julian Wilson - No. 106 WR: Wilson, the lowest rated player of the entire class, might be remembered most for his struggles this season and not for his unrelenting leadership and unselfishness. He played every position in the Sooners’ secondary during his career.