Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield could have declared for the NFL draft but he chose to return to OU because he wants to win a national championship.
With Mayfield as quarterback, No. 7 Oklahoma had a shot at a national title two years ago but lost in the first round of the college football playoff. Early nonconference losses to Houston and Ohio State kept OU out of the playoff last year but Mayfield did lead the Sooners to their second straight Big 12 championship.
It would seem that the only achievements left for Mayfield would be to win the national championship and perhaps win the Heisman Trophy (he was a finalist for the last two years). Mayfield is the preseason Offensive Player of the Year in the Big 12.
Even though Oklahoma has perhaps the best offensive line in the nation and one of the best tight ends, OU lost running backs Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine to the NFL plus Biletnikoff Trophy winner Dede Westbrook.
And Bob Stoops has retired, leaving Mayfield with rookie head coach Lincoln Riley. “He hasn’t changed at all,” Mayfield said of Riley. “Just for example, it took Jeff Mead riding him for three weeks before he finally got a new car. He’s the same guy. He’s a humble guy. He knows exactly why he’s here and how he got here. He works very, very hard. He paid attention to the people around him.
“He learned from (Mike) Leach, Ruffin (McNeil) at ECU and then Coach (Bob) Stoops. He watched all those guys, and he took notes and paid attention to all the details. So he hasn’t changed at all. I think that the best thing about him is that no matter where he’s at, he’s always the same person. That’s the thing I’ve always said to recruits or anybody else. The person you meet is the person you’re going to get. That’s the most special thing you can get because you can build a relationship with him and it will be there throughout all phases of life.”
Fullback Dimitri Flowers thinks the transition from Stoops to Riley will be fine for Mayfield.
“It’s great to see that relationship,” Flowers said. “You know when you have the head coach and the quarterback. Baker being one of our leaders and the brothership that they have they can joke around and get serious with each other. It sets the tone for the team.”
One of the biggest battles during fall camp is for who will be the No. 2 quarterback for the Sooners. Mayfield is sold on the depth at his position.
“I’d say it’s the best in the country,” Mayfield said. “Kyler (Murray), Austin Kendall and even Connor McGinnis has continued to get better and better. They’re all good at different things.
“I’d still say Kyler Murray is the fastest player on the team. He adds such a different element to our offense when he’s in there, and Austin Kendall is just such a different player. It’s exciting to see those guys battle it out. Kyler did the same thing that I did and played one year, sat out another and did plenty of stuff for the scout team, and now he’s back and he’s ready to go. I’m excited for him to get out and get some live experience.”
Last season, there was only one scholarship quarterback on the team after Mayfield due to the transfer of Trevor Knight (now with the Arizona Cardinals in the NFL) to Texas A&M.
“It’s going to be a great competition,” Riley said of the quarterback slot. “ Just after (the) first week, I can tell you those guys are really playing well. It’s a new situation. We said the other day, last year it was pretty much set that Baker (Mayfield) was going to be the guy, and then with all the transfers, that Austin Kendall was going to be the next guy. There wasn’t much doubt.
“This year, it’s just a totally new situation. With Austin, with Kyler (Murray), with Tanner Schafer – three guys that have had a bunch of reps around here, that know what they’re doing. It’s been fun to see them compete at a high level. You can feel kind of the difference in their play and their sense of urgency right now versus last year at this time, which is a positive.
“We’re looking for the guy that can be the most consistent, that can move the group, that when he walks in there, if you hadn’t seen us play offensively, you would think he’s the starter and he’s the guy running the show. Obviously, they’ve got to execute and do their job, too. That sense of being over to take over, leading the group when it’s their time, regardless of the situation, I think is a critical factor.”
None of the new running backs may be as good as Mixon or Perine but as a group, they seem to have potential.
“They all add a different element to the game,” Mayfield said. “I would say Abdul (Adams) has progressed the most out of all of them. He’s very explosive and quick, but the one thing I will say about all those guys is that it takes more than just one guy to bring them down. I could say that about Trey Sermon, Rodney Anderson, Marcelias Sutton, and obviously Abdul.
“Then you bring in young guys like Kennedy (Brooks). They’re all very, very talented. It’s exciting to see the different things they do well. I think Rodney and Trey Sermon will bring in more of a pass game element from the running backs. I think Marcelias is so explosive. He can take it to the house every time he touches the ball.”