CollegeFootballNews.com 20th Anniversary Top 20 Players
Who were the top 20 players since CFN started in 1998? No. 17 Oklahoma QB Jason White
CFN Era Top 20 Players: No. 17 Oklahoma QB Jason White
CollegeFootballNews.com is turning 20 this season, so we’re looking back on the greatest players, games, coaches and more since we first kicked things off back in 1998.
For the Top 20 Players since CFN started, the rules are simple. Who made the biggest impact, who were the most important, and who were ones who made the biggest difference? Who were the defining players of the last 20 years?
Also, nothing before 1998 counts.
Jason White, QB Oklahoma (1999-2004)
Yeah, there are a bazillion more talented quarterbacks than Jason White who could’ve made this list. But when it came to discussion, arguments, and debates over awards, greatness, and leaders of fantastic teams, the point of this is to highlight players who were a really, really big deal when it came to honors, production, and arguments.
They’re not as big now, but when the message board world was humming at full-force, on a national scale, they were all about Jason White, Jason White, Jason White.
For two years, when it came to the Heisman debate, and who belonged in the BCS Championship, White became the focal point of a whole lot of wasted man hours.
And yes, White is also on the short list of the most underappreciated stars of the last 20 years.
On his way to being the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2010, Sam Bradford was the special talent for OU, quarterbacking one of the most devastating offenses of all-time, but White played in two national championships.
Josh Heupel almost won a Heisman and he helped give Bob Stoops his only national title. But he didn’t win the Heisman, and he wasn’t nearly as efficient as White.
Baker Mayfield could very well finish his career as the best Oklahoma quarterback of them all, but again, White played in two national championships.
Because he wasn’t flashy, and because he didn’t have the NFL size or arm, he was never given his due for what he accomplished. But for a while, he was the leader of a loaded team that managed to go 23-0 over two straight regular seasons.
Who was the gap-bridger between Heupel and White?
Nate Hybl transferred to Oklahoma from Georgia and turned into the next-big-thing Sooner QB before getting hurt early in 2001. White came in and was solid, throwing for 681 yards and five scores before suffering a torn ACL and getting knocked out for the year after just a few appearances.
Enter Hybl again, who took back the job, leading the Sooners to a Cotton Bowl win.
White returned in 2002 and won the job, only to go down with yet another season-ending knee injury after a shaky start. White redshirted, and Hybl threw 24 touchdown passes, leading OU to the Big 12 championship and the Rose Bowl.
On two bad knees, and with a mediocre resume, White entered the 2003 season as the starter, but no one was doing backflips over a guy who couldn’t move and was hardly a sure thing to work the offense around.
With no mobility, White was all pass, all the time, efficiently and effectively picking apart North Texas to start the 2003 season before carving up Alabama in a 20-13 win.
And then the offense found its groove.
White needed the two games to warm up, and then the Sooners exploded with a 52-28 win over a strong Fresno State team. From that point on, OU scored 50 points or more in seven of the next ten games, including a stunning 65-13 slap-down of Texas, with White hitting 17-of-21 passes for 290 yards and four scores.
The machine marched on, and White got better and better dominating over the final month of the season throwing 13 touchdown passes and no picks in the last three games on the way to a 12-0 start and a Big 12 title appearance.
Kansas State came up with an all-time shocker in the championship, picking off White twice in a 35-7 win, but it didn’t matter. Oklahoma was still off to play LSU in the BCS Championship, and White went on to win the Heisman, narrowly beating Pitt WR Larry Fitzgerald and Ole Miss QB Eli Manning.
But as bad as the Kansas State game was, the national title was worse for White. Nick Saban’s LSU team stopped the Heisman-winner cold, allowing him to complete just 13-of-37 passes for 102 yards and two picks in the ugly loss.
White was granted a medical redshirt after his two ACL tears, and he made the most of it.
He was efficient and effective as OU rolled through win after win, once again getting through the regular season unbeaten, While he was efficient and effective, he didn’t quite have the same 2003 stats. He didn’t need to with some Adrian Peterson guy to hand off to.
While the numbers might not have been as strong as the year before, this time, his Sooners rolled in the Big 12 championship, clocking Colorado 42-3 to get back to the national title game.
While he wasn’t quite good enough to get the legendary honor of winning a second straight Heisman – splitting the votes with Peterson didn’t help – he wasn’t all that far off.
The OU RB finished second in the voting, the OU QB finished third, and USC QB Matt Leinart – despite throwing two fewer touchdowns and just 122 more yards on 22 more attempts – won the Heisman.
And the national title.
USC whacked around Oklahoma 55-19 in the Orange Bowl, with White closing out his career with a rough 244-yard, two touchdown, three pick performance in the blowout.
The stats might not look quite as special now, but back in 2004, finishing up with 7,913 career yards and 81 touchdowns was terrific. Granted, White threw nine of his 24 career picks in the four biggest games – the two Big 12 and two BCS championships – but he was the steadying conductor who got the team there.
Was he just a guy who got to drive the bus? Could a Heupel, or a Bradford, or a Mayfield, or a Hybl, or a Landry Jones have done the same thing? Yeah, but this list is about honors, achievements, and what happened during the player’s tenure.
Leinart won the 2004 Heisman, but White won the Maxwell, Johnny Unitas, and Davey O’Brien awards. He also won the O’Brien in 2003, as well as the Heisman.
And, yes, he did quarterback two teams that went to the national title. and yes, he did play in two Big 12 championships, winning one.
For a few seasons, White became the topic of ongoing conversations about talent, awards, and whether or not he was really that good.
For those few seasons, at least in the college football world, he was.
CFN 20th Anniversary lists compiled by Rich Cirminiello, Pete Fiutak, Phil Harrison & Russ Mitchell