The All-Mike Stoops team at Arizona

Mike Stoops served two stints as Oklahoma's defensive coordinator, bookending his time as Arizona's head coach.Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Gronkowski, Cason, Foles and more

Oklahoma fired former Arizona head coach Mike Stoops as its defensive coordinator on Sunday, a day after a 48-45 loss to Texas, according to multiple reports.

Stoops has been the Sooners' defensive coordinator since the 2012 season, when his brother Bob, then the Oklahoma head coach, brought him back to the program after being fired as the head coach at Arizona. Mike had been working for second-year OU head coach Lincoln Riley.

Stoops went 41-50 in seven-and-a-half seasons with the Wildcats, inheriting a mess of a program in the wake of the John Mackovic era.

I've often said that Stoops got the program from Point A to Point B, but he wasn't going to be the guy to get Arizona from Point B to Pasadena.

Neither was Rich Rodriguez. We'll see about Kevin Sumlin.

Stoops, 56, directed Arizona to back-to-back 8-5 seasons in 2008 and 2009, but his tenure began to unravel late in the 2010 season after a 7-1 start in which the Wildcats climbed to No. 13 in the AP poll. That was fools' gold. The problem was that the schedule that season was back-loaded with the toughest teams ... and that the 2011 schedule was front-loaded with ranked teams.

The results were disastrous.

Arizona would lose 10 consecutive games to FBS opponents -- including to six ranked teams and twice to unranked USC teams. Athletic director Greg Byrne, who, like other high-ranking school officials, was displeased with Stoops' sideline tantrums, fired the head coach after a 1-5 start in 2011.

Stoops had to recruit to Arizona without benefit of the current facilities, but he did manage to bring in some of the program's all-time brightest stars.

Cornerback Antoine Cason won the 2007 Jim Thorpe Award as the nation's top defensive back and was a late first-round pick in 2008.

Wide receiver Mike Thomas ended his career as the Pac-12 career leader in receptions.

Tight end Rob Gronkowski was a beast -- albeit, all too briefly at Arizona -- before becoming a star with the New England Patriots and arguably the greatest ever at his position in the NFL.

Senior quarterback Nick Foles rewrote many of the school's career passing records and went on to become the MVP of the 2018 Super Bowl.

I put together a list of the best to play at Arizona for Stoops. I present the All-Stoops team.

QB -- Nick Foles

Foles, a transfer from Michigan State who started for most of three seasons, threw for a school-record 10,011 yards and tied Willie Tuitama (another Stoops quarterback) with 67 career touchdown passes.

RB -- Mike Bell, Nic Grigsby

Stoops inherited Bell, who rushed for a combined 1,896 yards and 10 touchdowns in the coach's first two seasons at Arizona. Grigsby battled injuries in his final two seasons and wasn't able to replicate his sophomore season (1,153 yards and 13 touchdowns), but he did finish with 2,957 career rushing yards and 28 rushing touchdowns.

WR -- Mike Thomas, Juron Criner

Thomas was a contributor from his very first game -- seven catches for 92 yards and a touchdown at Utah in 2005 -- and never stopped putting up good numbers. By the time his career ended with a catch on the final play of the 2008 Las Vegas Bowl, he had a Pac-12 record 259 catches.

Criner had a brilliant junior season in 2010 (82 catches, 1,233 yards, 11 touchdowns) and finished with a UA-record 32 receiving touchdowns.

TE -- Rob Gronkowski

He played in only 22 games at Arizona, sitting out 2009 because of back problems and then leaving for the NFL with two seasons of eligibility remaining, but he holds school season and career records for receptions, yards and touchdowns by a tight end.

Gronkowski, a third-team All-American in 2008, had 75 catches for 1,197 yards and 16 touchdowns in those 22 games. And UA fans will forever wonder if his presence in 2009 could have lifted Arizona past Oregon in a mid-November game. The Ducks won in double overtime, robbing the Cats of the chance to be in the driver's seat for the Pac-12 title.

OL -- Colin Baxter, Eben Britton, Adam Grant, Joe Longacre, Mike Diaz

Baxter, with a school-record 48 consecutive starts, is the clear pick at center. Britton was the only Arizona offensive lineman to earn first-team all-conference honors during the Stoops years.

Grant persevered through injuries and became a second-team all-league choice in 2009 and 2010. Longacre, a guard, provided stability with 40 career starts. Diaz started 20 games after transferring from junior college, the bulk of them at left tackle during 2009.

DL -- Brooks Reed, Ricky Elmore, Earl Mitchell, Lionel Dotson

Reed and Elmore were high-energy ends near the end of Stoops' tenure. Elmore had 21.5 sacks in his final two seasons. Reed earned first-team all-conference honors in 2010 and had 17 career sacks.

Mitchell and Dotson are the All-Stoops tackles. Mitchell was an anchor after moving from fullback for his final two seasons and developing into an NFL talent. Dotson's senior season in 2007 -- 50 tackles, including nine for loss and 6.5 sacks -- was the best for an Arizona interior defensive lineman in several years.

LB -- Spencer Larsen, Ronnie Palmer, Xavier Kelley

Larsen, who returned from a two-year church mission after playing as a freshman in 2002, joined Stoops' squad for the 2005 season. He made 131 tackles as a senior in an All-Pac-10 season, and his 312 career tackles were the most for a UA player in the decade.

Palmer, who started 41 games, led the Cats in tackles (85) and tackles for loss (11) in 2008.

The third spot is up for debate. Sterling Lewis? Vuna Tuihalamaka? Paul Vassallo? All were junior college transfers. Kelley -- undersized but speedy -- was a four-year player who was second-team all-league in 2009.

CB -- Antoine Cason, Trevin Wade

Cason had 15 career interceptions, with highlight-making returns for touchdowns in a 2006 upset of No. 8 Cal and an upset of No. 2 Oregon a year later. Wade had 12 career interceptions and 28 pass break-ups -- tied for 10th in both categories in school history.

S -- Darrell Brooks, Michael Johnson

Brooks, a leader on Stoops' early teams, was the coach's first all-conference player, earning first-team honors in 2005. Johnson was a key junior college transfer, with 107 tackles and five interceptions in two seasons. Plenty of other solid candidates to consider: Cam Nelson, Nate Ness, Robert Golden.

P -- Danny Baugher

A leftover from the John Mackovic era, Baugher punted for Stoops for two seasons and was leading the nation in punting in 2005 when his season ended in the seventh game because of an ACL injury. His average of 47.5 yards that season qualifies as the school season record.

PK -- Nick Folk

Jason Bondzio was more accurate on field goals, but Folk had a big leg and went on to make a name for himself in the NFL. Folk, in 2006, also was the Pac-10′s first-team all-conference punter, averaging 44 yards per attempt.

AP -- Syndric Steptoe

Steptoe was a versatile performer for the Wildcats, including two punt returns for touchdowns. He played briefly pre-Stoops in 2003, finishing his career with 1,584 receiving yards, 590 punt return yards and 1,757 kick return yards.

Comments
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mrzipityduda
mrzipityduda

Excellent sumnation. I so agree that Stoops would have never gotten us to Pasadena. Had Gronk stayed healthy we just magic still have Stoops as HC.

Steve Rivera
Steve Rivera

Editor

Good list. Knew you'd do something like this. Could recruit but just not head coach material.