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Archive for Friday, December 1, 2000

Oklahoma dominates All-Big 12 selections

Seven Sooners earn first-team all-league recognition; Five Kansas State players honored

December 1, 2000

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— With Oklahoma ranked No. 1 and the nation's only undefeated team, it's understandable that Sooners dominated The Associated Press All-Big 12 team.

What may be surprising is where they appear most: defense.

Known mostly for a high-scoring offense led by quarterback Josh Heupel, Oklahoma had only two players make the first team on that side of the ball compared with four players plus the punter on defense.

"We can win without just outscoring everybody," Sooners coach Bob Stoops said. "We've had big stops in the fourth quarter, big turnovers the entire year.

"Our defense has just been exceptional with the big plays they've come up with."

The seven first-team choices for the Sooners were easily the most. No. 8 Kansas State, which plays Oklahoma on Saturday in the conference title game, was the closest with five.

The AP team, released Thursday, was picked by sports writers from the league's seven states who regularly cover the conference. Earlier this week, Stoops was named coach of the year and three of the four individual honors went to Sooners.

Heupel, the unanimous choice for offensive player of the year, was among three unanimous picks on the first-team offense. The only one on defense was Sooners linebacker Rocky Calmus, who also was the AP's defensive player of the year.

Other Oklahoma defenders on the first team were linebacker Torrance Marshall and defensive backs J.T. Thatcher and Roy Williams. Williams is the only sophomore on the first team. Calmus was picked as a sophomore last season.

The Sooners' defense led the Big 12 and was fifth in the country in points allowed per game at 15.3. They ranked third overall in the conference and ninth in the nation at 282.5 yards per game. Oklahoma was No. 3 in the league in defending the run and the pass.

"That's pretty special," said Stoops, who was defensive coordinator at Florida before taking over the Sooners last season. "It's a good league and we've played strong teams in this league through the year."

Offensive lineman Frank Romero joined Heupel on the offensive first team. Punter Jeff Ferguson also was selected.

Along with chasing the national championship, Heupel is within reach of several high personal honors, such as All-American and the Heisman Trophy.

While the debate about whether he or Florida State's Chris Weinke deserve the big prize, the left-hander isn't even paying attention.

"I live a pretty sheltered life," Heupel said. "I don't read the newspapers or watch TV when it has anything to do with what's going in inside the walls of this football program."

The Sooners also had three second-team picks including Thatcher again, this time at the all-purpose spot on offense and nine players made honorable mention.

A total of 18 Oklahoma players received votes.

Kansas State had 15 vote-getters. The Wildcats' first-team honorees were receiver Quincy Morgan, a unanimous pick, all-purpose performer Aaron Lockett, kicker Jamie Rheem and defensive linemen Monty Beisel and Mario Fatafehi. Rheem and Morgan were first-teamers last year, too.

No. 10 Nebraska had four first-teamers in center Dominic Raiola, another unanimous pick, and a trio of returning honorees in offensive lineman Russ Hochstein, tight end Tracey Wistrom and linebacker Carlos Polk.

Fatafehi and Raiola are both from Honolulu. That's as many as Houston and Tulsa, Okla., produced. Another interesting hometown nugget: Both first-team running backs Ennis Haywood of Iowa State and No. 12 Texas' Hodges Mitchell are from Dallas.

Mitchell was joined on the first team by his biggest blocker, 6-foot-6, 365-pound Leonard Davis. UT defensive lineman Casey Hampton also made the first team. Mitchell and Hampton were first-teamers in 1999.

Haywood, who led the Big 12 in rushing, was joined by one of his blockers, Ben Bruns.

The only other school with multiple honorees was Texas A&M. The Aggies produced receiver Robert Ferguson, the offensive newcomer of the year, and linebacker Jason Glenn.

The rest of the first team was defensive lineman Justin Smith of Missouri, who also was honored last season, and defensive backs Gary Baxter of Baylor and Kevin Curtis of Texas Tech.

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