Oklahoma Quarterbacks: There is bound to be controversy whenever you make a top-10 list of anything. These lists usually reflect subjective opinions rather than facts.
Subjective opinion gets in the way more than ever when it comes to making a list of the 10 greatest quarterbacks to ever play at the University of Oklahoma.
College football has changed the style of play, which has led to the quarterback position evolving. This is especially true in the case of Oklahoma football. Originally, the Sooners ran a Wishbone offense that produced run-heavy offensive attacks. They now run a spread attack offense that mainly throws the ball.
Landry Jones is the current Sooners quarterback. How would you compare him to a Wishbone quarterback who threw the ball fewer times in his career than Jones does in an entire season?
Opinions are subjective. Let’s start a debate.
Career Stats: 3,084 passing yards, 26 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions; 335 rushing yards and six touchdowns
PT! Despite being a bigger fan of Paul Thompson than most, I love what Thompson accomplished during his time at Oklahoma.
Thompson was originally recruited to play quarterback. Thompson played very little quarterback during his first three seasons, so the coaching staff decided it would be a good idea to convert him to the wide receiver so that the Sooners could take advantage of his athletic ability.
Thompson caught 11 passes for 106 yards as a junior and showed signs of promise as a wide receiver. The following year, Thompson was forced to switch positions again – this time to quarterback for his senior year.
Thompson completed 204 passes for 2,667 yards, 22 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions that season. While running for 151 yards and three touchdowns, he also threw 22 interceptions. Thompson’s surprising performance led the Sooners to an 11-3 record and a conference championship over the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
Thompson faced the (then) unheralded and hungry Boise State Broncos in his only bowl appearance as a starting quarterback. I’m sure we all remember how that ended…
Despite starting for only one season, Thompson still ranks eighth on Oklahoma’s career passing yards list.
Career Stats: 4,916 yards passing, 40 touchdowns, 23 interceptions; four rushing touchdowns
The fact that Nate Hybl is ranked No. 9 on this list maybe because he does not get the recognition he deserves. Though I wanted to put him higher on this list, I couldn’t bring myself to do so.
Back in 2001, Jason White did not start the season at quarterback, but Nate Hybl did. As a result of Hybl’s injury against Texas, White came in, played well, and took over as the starter.
Hybl was once again given a chance to shine after White’s first ACL injury occurred against Nebraska later in the season. Although the Sooners lost that game to Nebraska, Hybl led his team to an overall record of 11-2, including a Cotton Bowl victory over the Arkansas Razorbacks.
The following season, White beat Hybl to the starting job, but after tearing his ACL in the second game, White was rendered useless for the remainder of the season. Hybl, again, took over as coach, led the Sooners to a 12-2 record, a conference championship, and the Rose Bowl victory over Washington State.
Hybl played in the NFL for the Cleveland Browns and Jacksonville Jaguars during his senior year, and his skills on the field weren’t overlooked. However, he was only a backup on both teams.
Hybl was not an All-American or winner of the Heisman Trophy like some of the other names on this list, but he was tough, had a great arm, and went undefeated in bowl games.
That’s not bad at all.
Career Stats: 6,142 rushing yards, 16 touchdowns, 35 touchdown passes, 31 interceptions
Cale Gundy, who coaches running backs for Oklahoma, battled with Steve Collins for the quarterback position during the mid-1990s.
The starting job was awarded to Collins as a redshirt sophomore in 1990, but Gundy took over six games into the season and never looked back. Even though Gundy faced competition, he was named the starting quarterback for the next three years.
He never had a record better than 9-3 (1991, 1993) and was never considered for an All-American honor, but Gundy finished his career with over 6,000 passing yards, which is good enough for fifth all-time among OU quarterbacks.
During the bowl season, Gundy went undefeated. It was he who led the Sooners to their Gator Bowl victory over Virginia in 1991, and it was he who led them to their Sun Bowl victory over Texas Tech in 1993.
Gundy, in contrast to some of the other quarterbacks on this list, may have achieved the most with the least support around him. Those are great numbers for a player, as he is just ahead of Paul Thompson and Nate Hybl.
Career Stats: Passed for 1,953 yards, eight touchdowns, 19 interceptions; rushed for 1,449 yards, 35 touchdowns
Let’s not fool ourselves. When it comes to passing, J.C. Watts did not rank among the top-10 quarterbacks in Oklahoma history. In his career, he has scored eight touchdowns and thrown 19 interceptions, which is not something a starting quarterback should do.
Can Watts, however, be considered a “real” quarterback? The Wishbone package Oklahoma used meant that more of the Sooners’ quarterbacks were known for their rushing ability than their throwing arm.
Regardless of what Watts can be classified as there’s no disputing that he was good at what he did. Watts (and Billy Sims) took the Sooners to an 11-1 record in Watts’ first season as a starter (1979), losing to the Texas Longhorns only once.
It was Watts and Sims who carried the load against No. 4 Florida State in the Orange Bowl that year, finishing the upset in a commanding fashion, 24-7.
In 1980, Watts led the Sooners to a 10-2 record, including another Orange Bowl victory over higher-ranked Florida State.
Following his graduation from Oklahoma, Watts played in the CFL for five seasons before retiring in 1986.