Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield will get a less than warm reception October 22 when the Sooners travel to Lubbock to take on Texas Tech.
Mayfield last played on Jones AT&T Field as a freshman for the Red Raiders in 2013.
Since he withdrew from Texas Tech, Mayfield sat out a year and then last year led the Sooners to a Big 12 title and a spot in the College Football Playoff.
Texas Tech refused to release Mayfield from a clause that would have given him three years of eligibility at OU but the Big 12 intervened this summer and changed the rule.
It turns out, Texas Tech voted for the change.
Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said he “loved coaching (Mayfield), loved the chip on his shoulder, cheered for him in every game except one, and it’s been fun to see the success he has had.”
As a true freshman and a walkon, Mayfield threw for 413 yards and four touchdowns in the season opener for Texas Tech. He was named the Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the year. But Mayfield didn’t get the scholarship he wanted and transferred.
OU Offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley, offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh and outside receivers coach Dennis Simmons all have direct ties to Texas Tech. Riley began his coaching career with the Red Raiders under the guidance of then-head coach Mike Leach, a former OU assistant. Riley spent seven years at TTU. Bedenbaugh was with the Red Raiders for seven seasons while Simmons spent 10 years in Lubbock.
OU beat the Red Raiders 63-27 a year ago in a game that saw the teams combine for 164 offensive plays (OU – 79 , TTU – 85) and more than 1,000 yards of total offense (OU – 617, TTU – 436). OU had 417 yards on the ground and rushed for seven scores in the game.
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who may be as good a Mayfield, will start for the Red Raiders.
“Patrick has stepped in for year three and was poised for a very good year, and I think that’s where Baker wanted to be and it’s worked out for him there and he’s had a tremendous run,” Kingsbury said. “I know Patrick wanted to be at Texas Tech and both guys have had a tremendous run and there is yet to come.”
Mahomes led the nation in total offense a year ago with 5,109 total yards (393.0 per game). He piled up 4,653 yards through the air (fourth most nationally) on 364 of 573 passing (.635) with 36 touchdowns (tied for sixth nationally) to 15 interceptions. He also added 10 scores and 456 yards on the ground en route to earning honorable mention All-Big 12.
“I think our Texas high school coaches do such a great job with their programs developing those quarterbacks through seven-on-seven which is year-round now, even in middle school those kids are getting great work through their high school programs,” Kingsbury said. “I think it’s a testament to those guys.
“Quarterbacks want to play in a system like we run. There is a great history of throwing the football and putting up great numbers and leading your team at that position at Texas Tech so we’ve been fortunate to have some really good ones come through there and hopefully that continues.”
Mahomes quit baseball to concentrate on football.
“I think the biggest thing was not playing baseball, and it’s the first full off-season he’s ever had as a football player,” Kingsbury said. ‘So the weight room, film with his teammates, working on mechanics and working on his footwork. He worked on becoming a better all-around quarterback and last year made spectacular plays, really carried us at times, moving around and making things happen. This year we’re going to work on things with him. When the ordinary play is there, let’s take it. When you have to be extraordinary, you have that ability to go do it. I think you will see a much more refined, athletic, polished quarterback this fall.”
Tech must replace its leading rusher and top two receivers from a year ago, including utility man Jakeem Grant. Grant led the Raiders in receiving with 1,268 yards on 90 receptions, 10 of them touchdowns. He also threw a 72-yard touchdown pass and scored twice on the ground.
The Red Raiders in 2015 ranked second nationally in scoring and total offense, but ranked 124th nationally, out of 127 FBS teams, in scoring defense. Tech surrendered 43.6 points and 547.7 yards per game (126th nationally). Those defensive issues contributed to a final record of 7-6 and a 4-5 mark in Big 12 play. The Red Raiders lost 56-27 to LSU in the Advocare V100 Texas Bowl.
“I think you look at the Big 12 and who has won the Big 12 the last four, five, six years – they’ve all had a defensive coordinator in place and built some continuity at that position and that’s what we have to do,” Kingsbury said. “Coach Gibbs did a tremendous job at The University of Houston. He’s made big strides at Texas Tech and I expect us to be much improved on that side of the ball and if that were given him. To be a head coach, he needs to take that job, but we would love to have him three, four, five years, as long as he will stay.”
Defensively, the Red Raiders will have to replace their two top tacklers, their sack leader and their interception leader from last season. Sophomore defensive back Jah’Shawn Johnson started all 13 games, recording 85 total tackles and 4.5 tackles for loss while picking off two passes and recovering four fumbles.
The Big 12 has voted to restore a conference championship game, in light of the importance of making the four-team national championship playoff. Details have not be decided.
“I don’t have much expertise as far as the championship game,” Kingsbury said. “I do think we had to make that move given this 13th data point. If the teams have already played and then they run it back, is that going to be fun for the fans. I don’t know. I think it’s exciting for us to have a showcase game like that late in the season and give us the playoff committee another data point to look at but how we’re going to structure it. The divisions, you worry about because do we not play OU one year or Baylor (or TCU) one year. You hate to see those games go away.”