Six Sooners were named to the All-Big 12 First Team as voted on by the league's coaches, the conference announced Wednesday. OU's offensive unit had four members receive first team status in running back Samaje Perine, wide receiver Sterling Shepard and offensive tackles Daryl Williams and Tyrus Thompson. On the defensive side of the ball linebacker Eric Striker and cornerback Zack Sanchez each earned the accolade. In addition to his first-team honors, Perine was named the Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year. He becomes the third Oklahoma running back to be picked as Offensive Freshman of the Year, joining Adrian Peterson (2004) and De'Mond Parker (1996). The Pflugerville, Texas, native led the Big 12 in rushing, totaling 1,579 yards on the year, including an FBS single game record-setting performance of 427 yards against Kansas (11/15). Perine also scored 21 rushing touchdowns, a Big 12 record for rushing touchdowns in a season by a freshman.
Perine becomes the first OU freshman to be named to the All-Big 12 First Team since linebacker Travis Lewis was recognized in 2008. The last freshman on offense to achieve the honor was Peterson in 2004.
Shepard's first team recognition is the first of his career. The standout wide receiver racked up 957 receiving yards on 50 catches in 2014, despite being hampered the last five games with an injury that has limited his production. Despite the missed time, Shepard ranks fourth in the Big 12 in receiving yards per game (87.0 avg.) and leads the Sooners in every major receiving statistic.
Williams and Thompson are each making their first appearance on the first team, as Williams earned second team status in 2013. The two have been vital to the offense's success, as Oklahoma has been the best team at protecting the quarterback in the nation, allowing an FBS-low eight sacks. The two also are a major reason the Sooners rushing attack has averaged 268.6 yards per game, the best in the conference by more than 30 yards. Williams also earned honorable mention in the Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year category.
A year after being selected to the second team as a sophomore, Striker earned first team honors this season. The Seffner, Fla., standout leads Oklahoma and ranks fourth in the Big 12 in sacks with 7.5. The linebacker has also totaled a team-best 14.0 tackles for loss, placing him sixth in the league. Striker also received honorable mention in the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year voting.
Rounding out OU's first team selections is Sanchez, who finished the regular season tied for the Big 12 lead in interceptions with six. The sophomore began the season by recording one interception in each of his first five games, including an interception returned for a touchdown against Texas. Sanchez is also tied for the team lead with seven pass breakups.
Four OU players were named to the All-Big 12 Second Team. Fullback Aaron Ripkowski, offensive lineman Adam Shead, defensive end Chuka Ndulue and defensive tackle Jordan Phillips all earned the first conference accolades of their respective careers.
Ripkowski and Shead have each played pivotal roles in the run blocking for the Sooners potent attack. Ripkowski has also became a force in short-yardage situations in the last three games of the season, totaling four touchdowns over that span.
Ndulue and Phillips have combined to be a big reason OU had one of the best defenses against the run in 2014. The Sooners have allowed just 109.6 rushing yards per game, good for second in the Big 12. OU is also one of two teams in the conference to not allow a 100-yard rusher all season.
In addition, offensive linemen Nila Kasitati and Dionte Savage, defensive lineman Charles Tapper and linebacker Geneo Grissom were each named honorable mention at their respective positions. Freshman Steven Parker earned honorable mention recognition for Defensive Freshman of the Year.
The University of Oklahoma has placed at least four players on the all-conference first team every season since 2000 and at least one player on the team every season since 1926 (89 years). OU has only had one season when playing in a conference without first-team honors (1925), marking 99 of 100 seasons.