By Bruce Campbell, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
Laurel to former Sooners quarterback Steve Davis for pointing out the obvious recently.
There is a recession in talent at Oklahoma.
Not a serious one — after all a 10-3 record with wins over OU’s two biggest rivals (Texas and Oklahoma State) and a co-Big 12 championship aren’t too bad.
But just compare Davis’ 1975 national championship team with the 2012 co-Big 12 champs and you’ll see his point and one big reason is a drop off in Oklahoma prep talent.
Just look at the Oklahoma natives in 1975.
There were the Selmon brothers — Eufaula’s Lee Roy and Dewey. Lee Roy would go on to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Dewey was a No. 2 draft pick of the Tampa Bay Bucs at tackle and nose guard
You had Tulsa East Central’s Jimbo Elrod, another All-American at defensive end. Legendary coach and broadcaster John Madden once wrote Elrod was the best special teams player he had ever seen in the NFL.
At linebackers were Jamie Thomas of Ada and Bill Dalke of Hobart. Neither was a spectacular player, but good producers nevertheless.
The line was all Oklahoma natives — tackles Mike Vaughn and Karl Baldschwiler, guards Chez Evans and Terry Webb and center Dennis Buchanan. Baldschwiler replaced an injured Jaime Melendez of Lawton.
Webb’s son, Brandon, would end up at Oklahoma State.
Sallisaw’s Davis was an overachiever (something seldom seen at OU recently). He went from being No. 7 quarterback on the freshman team to leading OU to an impressive 32-1-1 record over three seasons.
Fullback Jim Littrell of Muskogee, whose son Seth would be a captain on the 2000 national championship team, was another solid performer.
Tinker Owens, the brother of Miami’s Heisman Trophy winner Steve, was an All-American wide receiver. Think what he could have done in today’s spread offenses.
Placekicker Tony DiRienzo of Ardmore (a foreign exchange student from Brazil) still holds the school record for the longest field goal —60 yards.
Not to mention some of Davis’ teammates from the previous two seasons — center Kyle Davis of Altus, who played with the Dallas Cowboys; All-American linebacker Rod Shoate of Spiro, All-American safety Randy Hughes of Tulsa, defensive end Ron Waters of Oklahoma City John Marshall; offensive tackle Jerry Arnold of Putnam City West and nose guard Lucious Selmon, Lee Roy and Dewey’s big brother.
Only six state natives — offensive linemen Gabe Ikard and Bronson Irwin, wide receiver Sterling Shepard and defensive backs Gabe Lynn, Aaron Colvin and Javon Harris started for the Sooners in the Cotton Bowl against Texas A&M.
It’s not entirely fair to compare 1975 with 2012. The former was built without scholarship limitations. Many of those Sooner natives may have not been recruited in today’s 85-scholarship limit. There were a lot of overachievers, but an Oklahoma kid may be a little hungrier having grown up wanting to play for the Sooners.
Colvin chose to stay at OU for his senior season rather than go to the NFL like California natives Tony Jefferson and Kenny Stills and Texas product Tom Wort. That’s good news for the Sooners.
Still, the foundation of Oklahoma football is built on state natives and the talent is down right now. There only are five state players among the Sooners verbal commitments so far. Oklahoma State is not even expected to sign a player from the state this season.
OU’s future will always depend on how well the Sooners recruit in Texas. But having a bunch of great players from Oklahoma doesn’t hurt either.
Campbell is a News & Eagle sports writer.