The Best of Oklahoma
After nearly 20 years covering Oklahoma high school football, it's probably time to take stock of all the talent the Sooner state has produced through the years. Now it should be kept in mind in this ranking of the 40 best prospects, there is no thought to what became of their career after high school - just look at the final ranked player as evidence. As such there are some players who went on to great college, and even pro in some cases, careers that were left off the list - we're not trying to rewrite history here.
So here we go, whether they were sacking quarterbacks, playing quarterback, or anything in between, here are the state's best 40 prospects since 2004.
40. Sam Bradford
How He Got Here: It's going to look funny for many to see Sam Bradford on the top - or is it bottom? - of this list. However, one can't rewrite history and while Bradford was more respect than many by the SoonerScoop.com staff he still wasn't seen as the player that he became. All that said, Bradford had some huge years for Putnam North before a senior year that, to the untrained eye, looked like a big step back. The Panthers lost a load to graduation and he spent most of that yea running for his life.
Post High School: Bradford is the only Heisman trophy winner on this list and went on to be the No. 1 overall pick as well in the 2010 draft. Bradford's 2008 season will go down as one of the best in college football history and ended up being the Rookie of the year for St. Louis Rams in 2010. However, injuries derailed a once massively promising career.
39. Nathan Peterson
How He Got Here: Peterson was from the early days of the SoonerScoop.com rankings and was a Redskin prospect that was among the earliest to really take off as a national recruit. Peterson was never the overwhelming athlete that some who followed him at Union-Tuttle stadium but he was powerfully built and had the quickness to get up field.
Post High School: Peterson suffered some injuries that slowed him down early in his career but as things went on he picked up 8 sacks during his junior campaign.
38. C.J. Moore
How He Got Here: Moore was always one of the elite athletes in the state, with nearly uncanny feet and speed for a player of his size and length. Moore, at times, would struggle a bit with his hands and was a long, lean receiver. But it was always clear that if his frame caught up to his skills he could be an elite playmaker.
Post High School: Moore redshirted in his first season in Stillwater.
37. Ron Tatum
How He Got Here: Tatum is one of the most absurdly talented defensive linemen to emerge from Oklahoma in the last decade. When he was 'on' his size and speed were unique and he had the ability to take over games. The problem was that ability was too few and far between as Tatum often looked to just be going through the motions.
Post High School: Tatum redshirted in 2018 at Oklahoma and, afterward, departed for NEO.
36. Jordan Evans
How He Got Here: Evans was one of the few guys on this list that didn't have a huge name coming into his senior season but as time went on he started making plays for the Timberwolves. In fact he made plays on defense, offense, and even as a return man for North. In fact Evans was so dominant as a senior that he led North to it's first ever state championship game.
Post High School: Evans' career was a bit slow going early on but, much like his high school career, the light came on as his senior year went along - after an infamous night against Texas Tech in 2017 and a subsequent conversation with his father. Playing well down the stretch helped make him a sixth round pick of the Cincinnati Bengals in 2017. He has accumulated nearly 100 tackles in his first two seasons along with multiple starts.
35. D.J. Wolfe
How He Got Here: Wolfe was a major prospect, the last elite one from the once-mighty Eagles, that did a bit of everything for Eisenhower. He emerged early in his career and road that to becoming one of the rare wire-to-wire No. 1 overall prospect.
Post High School: Wolfe bounced around a bit during his time in Norman, largely due to being part of the same recruiting class as Adrian Peterson. Wolfe ended up in the defensive backfield where he ended up as an All Big 12 second team safety.
34. Terry Wilson
How He Got Here: Wilson was a player that was recommended by then Del City head coach Nick Warehime and there was no doubt that the Eagles had a special talent on their hands. Wilson not only had nice size but a big-time arm rand mobility for days. However, it wasn't until his senior year that you started to see things slow down for him and his mechanics start to become more repetitive. As that happened his accuracy took off and made him my No. 1 prospect in the state in 2016.
Post High School: Wilson signed with Oregon but spent only his redshirt year in Eugene before transferring to Garden City C.C. After a year at GCCC where he accumulated 31 touchdowns he ended up at Kentucky where he spent last year as the Wildcats starting quarterback and leading them to their first 10-win season in over 40-years.
33. Phillip Dillard
How He Got Here: People often forget what a big deal Dillard was coming from the Jenks program. Perhaps because his younger brother, Gabe Lynn, would be a bigger name down the road or just that the Trojans were churning out elite prospects at that point in time. Regardless though Dillard was a big and physical linebacker that helped Jenks win three straight state titles.
Post High School: Dillard had a solid career in Lincoln that ended up with a senior year that saw him net 83-tackles, including 10.5 for loss, and end up as a fourth round pick of the New York Giants.
32. Matt Romine
How He Got Here: Romine was a mountain of a blocker for the mighty Redskins and picked up offers from coast to coast. Romine had the size to be a dominant run blocker but was always surprising with his athleticism. It's a combination that made him an intriguing possibility as a player who could work both inside and outside in the college game.
Post High School: Romine never really found his footing in South Bend, Ind. but was a consistent contributor over his last few years before transferring to Tulsa for his senior season.
31. Trace Ford
How He Got Here: Ford was another player that really emerged during his junior season but it was as a senior that he found his position and his future role. During his junior year he was often playing as a 220-pound defensive tackle using his explosion to make up the size he lacked inside. As a senior he moved further outside and used that speed to turn the corner.
Post High School: N/A
30. Stanvon Taylor
How He Got Here: Taylor was a dominant player for East Central for several years including taking the Cardinals to the state title game in 2012. He was an explosive playmaker that helped on both sides of the ball and proved himself as a player who could play either in the college game.
Post High School: Taylor was moved to cornerback in Norman and started his first game as a freshman and then never started another game for the Sooners. It's one of the more peculiar careers in memory with Taylor looking set for stardom early on and then kind of fading away for some time.
29. Devon Thomas
How He Got Here: Thomas as a sophomore was set to become a five-star running back and to be a true contender for the No. 1 spot on this list. As a junior there started to be problems where he was missing on-field action and whispers began to emerge. As a senior it became clear there were problems that even his prodigious talent couldn't force schools to overlook.
Post High School: Oklahoma State hoped they could straighten things out but Thomas could never escape his off-field legal troubles and is now serving time in prison.
28. Owen Condon
How He Got Here: Not surprisingly with Condon's impressive frame he was known very early in his time at McGuinness. Condon as a junior could look a bit slow-footed and out of touch with speed rushers. However as a senior it seemed like his huge build started to come together and he really improved as a pass blocker, to the tune of ending up near the top of the list in an extremely talented 2018 class.
Post High School: Condon saw action in three games but redshirted in 2018 with the Bulldogs.
27. Felix Jones
How He Got Here: In an era when elite talents could sometimes slip through the cracks it took Rivals.com far too long to respond to Jones' talent, no one was more guilty than myself. The explosive back was a dominant prospect that probably fell a bit too much in the shadow of some older teammates, namely former five-star Robert Meachem.
Post High School: Jones went on to star in Fayetteville before becoming a first round draft pick of the Dallas Cowboys in 2008 where he would spend five years before racking up nearly 3,000 yards rushing in the NFL.
26. Dominique Franks
How He Got Here: Franks spent the first few years of his career at Owasso where he made a name for himself as the state's top cornerback. As time went on he ended up at Union and made a bigger name for himself and saw his recruiting really take off after showing up at the Kansas State NIKE camp and running a 4.44-second 40-yard dash.
Post High School: Franks was a part of Oklahoma's illustrious 2006 class and, like many in that group, ended up starring in the college game before making his way to the NFL for a five year career. He redshirted in 2006 before becoming a full-time starter in 2008, helping his team to a national championship game berth.
25. Grayson Boomer
How He Got Here: Boomer, in what has been a pattern here in the 20s was a player we liked early in his career largely for his impressive physical tools but as a senior the tools all came together. Boomer looked so much more natural with his movement and found renewed explosion in his senior season. His ranking could look low if he keeps progressing as he did over his final few years in Collinsville.
Post High School: N/A.
24. David Cornwell
How He Got Here: Cornwell emerged at tiny Jones, Okla. as a quarterback with a massive arm and the ability to make some plays with his feet. The big quarterback eventually transferred to Norman North and flashed miles of potential with his arm.
Post High School: Cornwell signed with the Tide out of high school and spent three years in Tuscaloosa without getting to attempt a pass before transferring to Nevada. He spent the spring and the early part of the 2017 season with the Wolfpack before eventually spending his senior season at East Central.
23. Calvin Barnett
How He Got Here: Barnett was a big-bodied interior defender with the great feet and quickness that made him not only a dominant run defender at 330-pounds but a surprisingly effective pass rusher.
Post High School: Barnett went on to have one of the more quietly successful careers of any of the long list of worthy Hornet products. After originally signing with Arkansas he ended up at Navarro for two years. He then returned to the state to become a two-time All Big 12 pick for Oklahoma State. He spent 2014 with the Cleveland Browns before being released in 2015.
22. Dalton Wood
How He Got Here: Wood started for the Buffs as a freshman but it took some time before his recruitment really took off. He played in a state semifinal game in 2014 against Lawton MacArthur in a performance that has become the stuff of legend since. Wood's size made him a player that projected to tight end, defensive end, or possibly even as a linebacker - the sky seemed to be the limit for Wood.
Post High School: As unique as Wood's recruitment was it wasn't nearly so surprising as what would come after he signed. Wood picked Oklahoma and seemed all set but just before it was time to arrive there became signs of apprehension. Then after 48 hours chose to arrive in Norman, he spent about 12 hours actually on campus, before returning to McAlester never to return again with never a real explanation for all that had happened.
21. Stacey McGee
How He Got Here: McGee was No. 2 in the Rivals.com rankings but was No. 1 in SoonerScoop.com rankings after a senior year that showed he was the best player on the Muskogee roster after spending most of his time in Jameel Owens's shadow. McGee was an, almost skinny, defensive lineman who excelled as a pass rusher on some Roughers teams that were consistently competing for state championships.
Post High School: McGee arrived in Norman as a defensive tackle but bounced around a bit during his tenure on campus - even working along the offensive line when the Sooners got particularly pinched by injury in the 2009 Bedlam game. He had 15 starts in his career as a defensive tackle but went out quietly with a sub-expectation 2012 season.
20. Steven Parker
How He Got Here: Parker was a Trojan that was known as a potential difference maker early on, particularly when he picked up an offer from Mike Stoops during the spring of his sophomore year. Parker went on to become a playmaking safety who took part in the Semper-Fi All-American Bowl and led Jenks to a state title when he had a big night in capping off his high school career.
Post High School: Parker went on to rack up 44 career starts in Norman and had one of the biggest plays of the 2018 Rose Bowl when he picked up a fumble and returned it for a touchdown against Georgia. Parker might not have quite become the star that some saw in high school but was always a consistent player and ended up as an undrafted free agent signee for the Los Angeles Rams, where he got to take part in their run to the Super Bowl last year.
19. Sterling Shepard
How He Got Here: Shepard started his career in the shadow of another famous football son, Barry Sanders Jr. However as time wore on it became increasingly clear that the two-way star was the guy who made Heritage Hall's engine run. Shepard was an explosive playmaker that made his name in the high school rankings before a really strong performance at the Under Armour All-American Game.
Post High School: Shepard has been one of the more successful Oklahoma prep products in recent years with 41-career starts in Norman and ending up as a Biletnikoff semifinalist. He was also a first or second team All-American after an enormous senior year that saw him finish with 86 receptions, 1,288-yards, and 11 touchdowns. He went on to be a second round pick of the New York Giants where he has compiled 190 career receptions for 2,282 yards and 14 touchdowns.
18. Gabe Lynn
How He Got Here: Lynn emerged as a sophomore for the Trojans and continued to grow and grow as a prospect with one FBS staff saying 'he's the best cornerback in the country' when coming out of South Tulsa. Lynn had great length, physicality and was a natural as a zone cornerback.
Post High School: Lynn's career in Norman took longer to emerge than many had expected but as a senior he really found his way and became an All-Big 12 safety for the Sooners and having perhaps the biggest game of his career in the key 2012 Bedlam matchup.
17. Will Sunderland
How He Got Here: Sunderland started off as a rail-thin safety that, in spite of that size, was always a violent hitter who loved to come up and play against the run. However, it was his length being able to handle playing center field that truly caught attention as he went along. Sunderland's frame began to fill out and he emerged as one of the nation's elite safeties.
Post High School: Sunderland had a huge moment against Texas in 2016 with his first career interception and eight of 18 career tackles. He ran afoul of the law before heading into his junior season and ended up at Troy where he is about to start his senior season.
16. Alex Ross
How He Got Here: Ross was once called by legendary Jenks head coach Allan Trimble 'maybe the best athlete I ever coached here'. That was a good and bad thing for Ross as he was such a dynamic talent but there were always question about how he might work as a running back. Still though to be that special at a place like Jenks is going to make it hard to keep someone far from the top of the list.
Post High School: Ross never quite found his feet as a pure running back but became one of the nation's elite kick return men in Norman before transferring to Missouri for his final year.
15. Gyasi Akem
How He Got Here: Akem was one of my all-time favorites from an athletic standpoint. When Akem was chasing down plays and, especially, quarterbacks off the edge he was a dominant prospect. At times though Akem could flow in and out of games and go missing. But still his talent was undeniable.and made him one of the state's top recruits in a talented 2014 class.
Post High School: The big Broken Arrow prospect never quite found his way in Stillwater but was a solid four-year contributor for the Cowboys.
14. Justice Hansen
How He Got Here: Hansen was one of the more productive quarterbacks in the last 20 years of Oklahoma and emerged as a true standout for Santa Fe. Hansen was a physical quarterback who threw a nice deep ball and was the leader of one of the better teams on the West side of the state in recent years.
Post High School: Hansen's time in Norman ended fairly abruptly, largely when Baker Mayfield took over the reins as Oklahoma's future quarterback. However, he found his feet well after spending a year at Butler C.C. and heading to Arkansas State. He ended his career as two-time Sunbelt player of the year for the Red Wolves.
13. Austin Box
How He Got Here: Many remember Box as a tough-nosed linebacker for the Sooners but in his high school days he was a do-it-all star for the Plainsmen. As a senior Box led Enid to an improbable state title game run where they eventually bowed out to a strong Jenks squad. Box played quarterback and was, often, a rangy safety that cleaned up a lot of messes. As a quarterback he was something of a Tim Tebow type for Enid. Box was easily the state's best prospect in 2007, a class that also included standouts like Ryan Broyles.
Post High School: Box fought through some injuries during his time in Norman but at times showed signs of becoming the dominant defender that many saw in his future during his prep days. Box was tragically lost on May 19, 2011 prior to the start of his senior season in Norman.
12. Austin Haywood
How He Got Here: A guy that has gone forgotten since his time as a prospect but Haywood had a chance to be a truly game-changing tight end for Oklahoma. Haywood emerged at Southmoore after spending his first few years at Anadarko and immediately flashed an ability that caught the attention of a load of programs familiar with recruiting the state. Haywood's frame and ability to even serve, at times, as a wildcat quarterback were a sign of how rare his skillset was.
Post High School: Haywood didn't last long in Norman and eventually ended up at Central Arkansas for a few months before giving up football in the fall of 2012.
11. Brey Walker
How He Got Here: Few players on this list can claim the physical gifts that Walker possesses. His blend of wrestling background, immense size, shocking length and athleticism are just rare traits. It's part of the reason that he is among the five most highly rated prospects I've covered in the state of Oklahoma. Walker's physical traits had him on the level of a five-star prospect while his tape sometimes didn't quite match up with some feeling a challenge was all that was needed for him to excel.
Post High School: Walker redshirted in his first year in Norman but is competing for a starting role in 2019.
10. Curtis Lofton
How He Got Here: Lofton was a player that came up somewhat in the shadow of classmate, and fellow top 10 member, Reggie Smith. However, as more and more people made their way to the sleepy Central Oklahoma town they realized that Lofton was a special talent of his own right. Lofton was a big and physical linebacker that had surprising ability to work in space and had the eyes of just about every major program familiar with the state.
Post High School: Lofton's first two years in Norman were solid, if unspectacular, but in 2007 he took home Big 12 defensive player of the year honors. He took that accolade and headed to the NFL where the Atlanta Falcons made him a second round pick. He spent eight seasons in the league averaging over 115-tackles a season before retiring in 2017.
9. Ronnell Lewis
How He Got Here: One of the scariest athletes Oklahoma has produced in the last 20 years belongs here. The first time you saw this guy's tape is something few have forgotten. Lewis would have been unfair at the 6A level but his massive size and speed in eight-man and class A football was borderline child endangerment to his opponents. He was, undeniably, a raw player but his physical talent was impossible to ignore.
Post High School: Lewis got to Norman and his perfromance against Stanford in the 2009 Sun Bowl is still a shining moment in 'The Hammer's' career. In spite of never really being a consistent starter in Norman went on to be a fourth round draft pick of the Detroit Lions in 2012. He spent that season in the NFL before bouncing around Canada and various other semi-pro teams.
8. Jalen Redmond
How He Got Here: Redmond was a guy who spent his first few years of high school focused on basketball but after plenty of effort from the Midwest City staff he made his way to the gridiron as a junior. That junior tape flashed, at times, but left some wondering if his frame and physicality would ever reach their potential on the field. However, his senior stuff was the moment when things truly came together for Redmond, the violence and athleticism of his game synced up and he ran over the Bomber's schedule.
Post High School: Redmond's first year in Norman didn't go as planned but it wasn't any fault of his. Blood clots slowed down his season but when he got a few snaps in the middle of the year he looked like the difference maker many foresaw out of high school.
7. Daniel Tabon
How He Got Here: This will stun some to see him this high on the list but it's worth remembering that he, Gerald McCoy, and Jermaine Gresham all played in the same district their senior year and it's worth noting that several felt that Tabon was nearly as dominant as McCoy. Tabon was an explosive linebacker who had the ability to play sideline to sideline and was physical upon arrival. The comparisons to former five-star Chris Patterson weren't without merit.
Post High School: Tabon being a bit of an off the field question mark wasn't some unknown reality of his situation but it just seemed like he was never quite able to be reached. Tabon got into trouble almost immediately upon arrival in Norman and pretty much faded from notoriety ever since.
6. Josh Turner
How He Got Here: Turner was a star on one of the more talent-rich teams of his era - an absolutely loaded squad from an era Millwood that produced multiple FBS signees. Turner was a corner with speed, length, and maturity that seemed like a surefire standout for years to come.
Post High School: Needless to say, it didn't play out in Austin the way many expected for Turner. Turner just never could find his way consistently into the Longhorns secondary.
5. Josh Proctor
How He Got Here: Proctor was a guy who something of a 'but he may prefer basketball' early in his high school career but the more people watched him the more people realized football was his future. Proctor was a long and rangy athlete that made plays in all phases of the game and was one of the most natural centerfield safeties the Scoop staff has seen. Proctor shined for Owasso as a senior and was a huge part of unseating a 20-year run of state titles split between South Tulsa powerhouses Jenks and Tulsa Union.
Post High School: Proctor played in nine games during his freshman season in Columbus and had one tackle. He is expected to compete to start in 2019.
4. Reggie Smith
How He Got Here: When you talk about truly great high school players Smith has a claim that stands up with just about any player in the state's illustrious history. Smith came on the stage as a freshman and eventually, as a junior in 2003, took Santa Fe as close as any west side team has come to dethroning the Tulsa powers of the 6A crown. Smith was a playmaker on both sides of the ball for the Wolves and his 28 career prep interceptions are thought, by many, to be the most in state history.
Post High School: Smith's collegiate career was an undoubted success though his moves back and forth in the secondary between corner and safety may have slowed his progress in developing at either. Regardless he was a freshman All-American and two-year all-Big 12 performer. Smith was a third round draft choice (No. 75 overall) of the San Francisco 49ers in 2008 and spent four years on the roster before getting shots with the Oakland Raiders and Carolina Panthers and eventually seeing the end of his career before the 2013 season.
3. Dax Hill
How He Got Here: One of a handful of members of a talented, and largely under appreciated, 2019 class. Hill's blend of size, speed and multi-dimensional game made him the state's first five-star since McCoy. Hill is the caliber of athlete who can turn and run with any receiver he comes up against but has the size to be a safety and a truly dynamic one at that.
Post High School: N/A
2. Jermaine Gresham
How He Got Here: It's almost perfect the Gresham finds himself right here. As I've said for years in literally any other year Gresham is the unquestioned No. 1 guy. Well, 2019 might have had some argument now, but Gresham was a special talent that just got caught right behind another of similar genetic gifts. Gresham emerged late in his sophomore year with a big playoff performance and as a junior became a nationally known recruit. As a senior he was an injury away from giving Ardmore a state title - but after his injury the Tigers just couldn't quite climb the mountain. Regardless, in a state that is absolutely loaded with NFL tight end production, Gresham is at the top of any list.
Post High School: Gresham took a little while to get going when he arrived in Norman but his 2008 junior season saw him become a Mackey award finalist before he returned for the 2009 season - a year that would be lost to injury. In spite of the lost season he became another first round draft pick from the 2006 class, when the Cincinnati Bengals took him with the No. 21 overall pick in the 2010 draft. Gresham was a two-time pro bowler with the Bengals and is nearing the end of a decade long career.
1. Gerald McCoy
How He Got Here: About as much a no doubt choice as you'd find on this list. McCoy had a very real argument as the country's top prospect in 2006. McCoy was a dominant defender for Southeast but was a guy that, in spite of all his talent and production, you knew had so much room to grow as a player. His place was always secure in this ranking as he was the No. 1 player in what has become an absolutely legendary high school class - five members are included in this top 40. McCoy emerged going into his junior year at an Oklahoma summer camp and quickly became a national recruit.
Post High School: McCoy was a part of the 2006 class that was strong nationally - five first round picks in Rivals.com's top 10 this year, including four in the top 10 and, as mentioned, and in retrospect might have been the best of the lot. In college he was a two-time All-American and a dominant force for the Sooners defense. He has gone on to be the No. 3 overall draft pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 2010 draft. He has pushed into potential hall of fame conversation with six pro bowls, three first team all-pro teams and already over 50 career sacks.