Oklahoma Football: The 7 Best Freshman Campaigns in School History

Tom GuthrieContributor IIIJanuary 26, 2012

Oklahoma Football: The 7 Best Freshman Campaigns in School History

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    As Bob Stoops and the Oklahoma Sooners wrap up another excellent recruiting class that includes multiple players that could make immediate contributions to the program, it's time to look back at amazing debuts by some of the all-time Sooner greats. 

    If talents like Trey Metoyer, Durron Neal and Alex Ross want to make a name for themselves early, they should look to some of the following players for inspiration.

    With that said, here are the seven best freshman campaigns in OU history. 

No. 7: Kenny Stills (2010)

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    Stills lived up to his billing for the Sooners as a top recruit coming out of Encinitas, Calif.

    He started every game in the 2010 season as a true freshman, tallying 61 catches for 786 yards, both OU freshman records. He also added five scores.

    Stills was an integral piece of a Sooner squad that won both the Big 12 Championship and the Fiesta Bowl, as the accolades he garnered reflect. He was named Freshman All-American as well as honorable mention Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year.

    It'll be interesting to see if the talented wideout leaves early for the NFL Draft after the 2012 season, but regardless, he has solidified himself as one of OU's many great receivers in the program's storied history.   

No. 6: Sam Bradford (2007)

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    Although he won the Heisman Trophy during his sophomore campaign in 2008, Bradford's exploits on the gridiron in 2007 shouldn't be overlooked. 

    He started in all 14 games, completing almost 70 percent of his passes for 3,121 yards and 36 touchdowns with only eight interceptions. He also led the nation in passing efficiency, earning a rating of 176.53 

    More importantly, Bradford led OU to 11 wins, a Big 12 Championship and a Fiesta Bowl appearance. His career from that point on, as Sooner fans will say, is history. 

No. 5: Derrick Strait (2000)

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    Making a major impact as a defensive player for Oklahoma is a rarity, but Derrick Strait, who started every game of the 2000 season at cornerback, made an invaluable impact, serving as one of the cornerstones on a dominant defense that led the Sooners to a triumphant national championship victory over Florida State.

    Strait earned Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year and Freshman All-America honors in his redshirt freshman campaign, finishing with 62 tackles, five tackles for a loss, two sacks, two interceptions (one for a touchdown against Nebraska) and 15 pass deflections, including two clutch ones against Oklahoma State and Florida State. 

    He followed up his splendid campaign with three more seasons of stifling play, culminating in his securing of the Thorpe and Nagurski Awards in 2003. 

No. 4: Travis Lewis (2008)

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    After redshirting in 2007, Lewis blossomed as soon as he saw the field, giving OU fans a taste of what to expect from the ball-hawking linebacker for the next four years. 

    Among his accomplishments are an astonishing 144 tackles, which topped Brian Bosworth's freshman record, 19 tackles in a single game, which tied a Bosworth record, four interceptions and 11.5 tackles for loss.

    Add to that Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year and First Team All-Big 12 honors, and one is convinced that Lewis' performance was one of the best in OU history for any player, not just a freshman. 

No. 3: Marcus Dupree (1982)

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    Despite the disappointing, premature end to his Sooner career, Dupree's 1982 freshman season in Norman was dazzling. 

    His electrifying combination of size and speed were simply too much to handle for opponents, as Dupree logged runs of 70, 75, 77, 80 and 86 yards. That stat alone would earn him a place on this list.

    Amazingly, Dupree rushed for 1,144 yards and 13 touchdowns despite only starting the final six games of the season. He capped off the year with 249 rushing yards on 17 attempts, a Fiesta Bowl record, against Arizona State, earning him MVP honors.

    The sensational tailback also garnered second team All-America and first team All-Big 8 honors in his first year as a Sooner. 

    Dupree's plight is one of sports history's greatest cases of "what might have been," and his downfall is a sad memory for Sooner fans. Regardless, his freshman season will forever shine in the memories of OU fans as well as in the record books.  

No. 2: Jamelle Holieway (1985)

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    Holieway had a sensational freshman campaign under center in 1985. After taking over for the injured Troy Aikman (yes, Troy Aikman) against Miami, Holieway dazzled the college football world by leading the Sooners to an 8-0 record as a starter (OU lost to Miami) and a national championship victory over Penn State.

    Holieway directed a deadly Sooner wishbone attack that averaged 327 rushing yards per game on the season, accounting for the period when OU ran a non-option attack with Aikman. 

    Holieway logged 861 yards rushing with nine touchdowns in addition to 517 passing yards with five touchdowns on the year, but what's truly remarkable are the immediacy and level of his success leading the Sooner offense.  

    To this day, the Carson, Calif., native is the only true freshman to lead his team to a national title.  

No. 1: Adrian Peterson (2004)

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    To say Peterson started his career at Oklahoma with a bang would be a gross understatement. As a true freshman, he gained 1,925 rushing yards, which still stands as an NCAA freshman record, and scored 15 touchdowns.

    Peterson gained 100 or more rushing yards in 11 of 13 games and topped 200 yards three times, highlighted by a 225-yard output against Texas.

    If that isn't enough, he also finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting, falling just short of the coveted award that went to Matt Leinart of USC.

    Peterson, who accumulated 4,045 rushing yards and 42 total touchdowns in less than three complete seasons at OU, will go down as one of the best players in school history, and his freshman campaign was arguably the best ever.