Say, or think, whatever you want about Oklahoma football coach Barry Switzer, but his first three seasons as a head coach in 1973, 1974 and 1975 resulted in a 32-1-1 record, three Big 8 titles and two national championships. He won the Big 8 Conference championship for 8 straight seasons before finally finishing second in 1981 when the Nebraska Cornhuskers took over for a few short seasons.
But, it was Chuck Fairbanks that was the Sooners head coach when they signed their recruiting class of 1972. Barry Switzer was the offensive coordinator that season. Fairbanks was hired away by the New England Patriots and Switzer was promoted to to the head job before the 1973 season.
Former offensive coordinator Switzer took over with the class of 1972 now in their sophomore seasons in 1973 and promptly led the Sooners to a 10-0-1 record. The Sooners were on probation that season and ineligible for a bowl game and the only blemish on their record came in Los Angeles
when they tied top ranked USC, 7-7.
No doubt about it, the sensational recruiting class was led by two super players in LeeRoy Selmon and the super speedy Joe Washington.
The Selmon brothers are legend in Oklahoma and the Sooners had signed an older brother named Lucious. In the 1972 recruiting class, Oklahoma signed LeeRoy and brother Dewey. The Selmon brothers made the Sooner front almost impregnable. They played basically a 5 man front with Dewey at nose tackle and LeeRoy at a defensive tackle position.
LeeRoy was the star of the family and was a two time consensus All American and won the Outland Trophy and the Lombardi Award in 1975. He was the very first pick in the 1976 NFL Draft by the brand new expansion team Tampa Bay. His brother, Dewey was taken by Tampa Bay in the second round. Selmon
LeeRoy Selmon went on to a stellar NFL career and has been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was a leader of the Sooner defense from day one and was a difference maker immediately.
Oklahoma has always depended on the state of Texas for big time talent and the 1972 recruiting class was definitely no different. When they signed Joe Washington out of Port Arthur, they added a lot of speed to their Wishbone offense.
Washington ran for over 600 yards as a true freshman in 1972. But, he exploded as a sophomore and exceeded 1,000 yards. Washington was a 1st team All American as a junior in 1974 and again as a senior in 1975. At Oklahoma, Washington ran for over 4,000 yards in his career and was one of their all time greats.
The 1976 NFL draft belonged to the Sooners when Washington was taken with the 4th selection of the 1st round.
Another Texan, stolen from right under the noses of rival Texas, Billy Brooks played high school football in the city of Austin. He was a big receiver at about 6-3, 200. Brooks didn’t see a lot of action in 1972 as a freshman. Then, he only caught 24 balls in three seasons. But, when they threw the ball out of that option offense, it was usually for big chunks of yardage. He averaged 25 yards per reception and scored 6 touchdowns. Brooks was taken with the 11th selection of the 1st round in
Obviously, the Wishbone does not use a lot of receivers, but in the 1972 recruiting class, the Sooners also signed Tinker Owens who just happened to be the younger brother of Oklahoma Heisman winner Steve Owens. The younger Owens was a talent in his own right and was the top pass catcher on the team during these years. He was always a threat on the deep ball. Owens moved right into the lineup as a true freshman and caught 17 passes. Over his 4 years as a college player, Owens caught 62 passes for over 1,400 yards. He was also a two time All American.
Owens was a 4th round draft pick by the New Orleans Saints where he played four seasons.
Jimbo Elrod was a wrestler as well as an outstanding defensive end from Tulsa, Oklahoma. Elrod was a consensus All American in 1975 and he finished his college football career with 44 career tackles for loss. He also helped the Sooners to the 1974 national wrestling title.
Elrod was a 5th round draft pick of the Kansas City Chiefs where he played for 3 years before moving on to the Houston Oilers.
Offensive lineman Mike Vaughan was supposed to be a part of this class and he was a monster for his time period. At 6-7, 285 Vaughan towered over most players of the time period and he was a consensus All American in 1976. The New York Giants picked him in the 4th round.
Then, there were good friends Kerry Jackson and Mike Phillips from Galveston Ball High School in Galveston, Texas. Jackson was a running quarterback who was perfect for the Oklahoma offense. His teammate, Phillips, was a tremendous defensive line prospect.
Jackson was destined to be the next big star at Oklahoma and came in and backed up senior starter Dave Robertson. All signs pointed to Jackson taking over as the next star Sooner quarterback. But, both Jackson and Phillips were suspended for the 1973 season because teachers at Galveston Ball had changed their grades.
Jackson and Phillips were back in 1974, but everything had changed. Steve Davis had taken over as the starter at quarterback and the Sooners were winning big, so why make a change. It was said that if Jackson had been available in 1973 that Steve Davis would have never played. Davis was steady and dependable and a quality Wishbone quarterback, but Kerry Jackson brought a little something extra to the option game. Now, on the negative end, Jackson was really erratic with his passing.
By 1974, Dean Blevins had come into the program and moved ahead of Jackson as a backup. Steve
Davis was the starter through the 1975 season and Jackson would never make that impact that had been expected in 1973 with the brilliance he had demonstrated.
Mike Phillips, on the other hand, moved into the starting lineup on the defensive line. However, he didn’t get much fanfare because he was surrounded by LeeRoy and Dewey Selmon and Jimbo Elrod.
Scott Hill was another member of this recruiting class and was another quarterback. He was injured and fell behind the quarterback race, but he was a magnificent athlete and eventually moved to safety. He was much too much of a talent to leave on the sidelines.
The 1972 Oklahoma Sooners won the Big 8 title and finished with an 11-1 record. The Sooner class of 1972 finished with an impressive 43-2-1 over a 4 year period with 4 Big 8 championships and 2 national titles which counted in only some polls because of probation.
Whether you are a Boomer Sooner fan, or thought they were cheats and couldn’t stand them, you probably at least respected what they did on the field.
The 1972 Oklahoma recruiting class was about as good as any there ever was.