Oklahoma Sooners: Baker Mayfield

During the summer months, ESPN.com will take a closer look at each scholarship player on Oklahoma’s roster in our Crimson Countdown series. Each day, we will analyze each player’s impact on the program since arriving on campus, his potential impact this fall, and his long-term projection. Starting with No. 1 Dominique Alexander, the series will follow the roster numerically through our final analysis of No. 98 Chuka Ndulue.

No. 6 Baker Mayfield, quarterback, 6-foot-2, 215 pounds, sophomore

Impact thus far: As a spring transfer, he has had zero impact on OU. But he had major impact on the Big 12 Conference as a walk-on true freshman at Texas Tech, earning Big 12 Freshman of the Year honors before his decision to transfer to OU. He passed for 2,315 yards, 12 touchdowns and nine interceptions in 2013.

Impact in 2014: He will be sitting out the 2014 season due to transfer rules. But he could still help the Sooners this fall as one of the best scout-team quarterbacks in the nation and will provide a quality test for OU's starting defense each week as it prepares for games each Saturday.

Long term upside: Mayfield is the most proven quarterback on the roster after starting seven games for the Red Raiders in 2013, so he could provide quality competition for Trevor Knight when he becomes eligible to play for the Sooners. Mayfield's unwavering confidence in his own abilities makes it unwise to count him out, no matter how Knight plays this fall. At the very least, Mayfield brings an upgrade to the overall talent in the quarterback room.

Evaluation grade for Mayfield: C. After leaving Texas Tech, Mayfield decided to walk on and join the program because he was a childhood fan of the Sooners. OU could have signed Mayfield out of high school but signed Cody Thomas instead. However, it's hard to hold that against the Sooners as Thomas looks like he could become a quality quarterback in his own right.

Development grade for Mayfield: N/A. Mayfield has been on campus for only one semester and isn’t eligible until 2014.

Quotable: “Baker looks good. You can tell he’s played. It’s obvious he’s been on the field when you watch him play. He looks comfortable and makes plays.” — Bob Stoops during spring football.
Baylor’s Bryce Petty is the Big 12’s top quarterback.

Yet, he’s likely to have a few returning quarterbacks nipping at his heels for that title this fall. Texas Tech’s Davis Webb, Kansas State’s Jake Waters and Oklahoma’s Trevor Knight are some conference quarterbacks who, with strong seasons, could battle Petty for the honor.

A closer look at the production of the Big 12’s returning quarterbacks reveals some areas of improvement for the record-setting Petty, Webb’s overlooked success and a pair of returning quarterbacks who changed positions after ranking among the conference’s best in a few passing categories. Here are some interesting tidbits, courtesy of ESPN Stats and Information, about the 2013 production of some of the Big 12’s top returning quarterbacks.

    [+] EnlargeBryce Petty
    Jerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsBryce Petty is the Big 12's best returning QB, but there are a few players who could challenge him for that title this fall.
  • Petty had 10.67 touchdowns for every interception he threw last season, which ranked second among FBS quarterbacks who started at least four games and first among Big 12 signal-callers. Petty’s production, efficiency and ability to take care of the ball while averaging 31 pass attempts per game is one reason he’s the favorite to be named the Big 12 offensive player of the year for the second straight season.
  • As good as Petty was throughout the season, he ranked fourth in the Big 12 in third-down conversion percentage, converting 40.8 percent of his third-down throws into first downs. Petty’s third-down conversion percentage is one of the few categories he can improve on this fall.
  • Kansas State's Daniel Sams, who has moved to receiver, converted 68.4 percent of his third-down throws into first downs, which led all Big 12 quarterbacks who started a game in 2013. Sams' percentage is impressive, but he only averaged 4.08 passes per game last season, making the number a bit misleading. Nonetheless, Sams was a more productive quarterback than it may seem, as he finished among the top-5 quarterbacks in the Big 12 in multiple categories, including adjusted QBR (68.3 on a scale of 0-100 with 50 being average) and yards per pass attempt (8.53).
  • One potential reason for Sams’ move? He was intercepted on 7.5 percent of his pass attempts, easily the worst in the Big 12. For comparison’s sake, Petty was intercepted on just 0.7 percent of his attempts.
  • Webb was the Big 12’s toughest quarterback to sack last season. The sophomore was sacked just 1.9 percent of the time in 2013. It’s a revealing and encouraging number for Texas Tech fans because it shows Webb, who averaged 36.1 pass attempts per game, makes quick decisions and gets rid of the ball fast in the Red Raiders' offense.
  • Waters was extremely efficient for Kansas State with 65.4 percent of his completions going for first downs or touchdowns. Only Petty and Sams had better percentages in 2013.
  • A pair of returning Bedlam quarterbacks, OU’s Knight and Oklahoma State’s J.W. Walsh, were right behind Webb in sack percentage. Walsh was sacked just 2.6 percent of the time, while Knight was sacked just 2.9 percent of the time. Both quarterbacks used their mobility and athleticism to make it difficult on defenses to sack them.
  • Knight was particularly hard to sack on third downs, as his 2.1 sack percentage led the Big 12.
  • Webb is the Big 12’s top returning quarterback in raw QBR on third down, recording a 85.3 raw QBR on third-down plays. Texas’ David Ash (83), Walsh (82.4) and Knight (78.4) each finished with a higher raw QBR on third down than Petty’s 76.
  • After finishing 2012 as one of the nation’s leaders in adjusted QBR, Walsh continues to be underappreciated for his actual production for the Cowboys. His 75 adjusted QBR was fifth in the Big 12, placing him ahead of Knight, Ash, Waters, OU’s Blake Bell, and Baker Mayfield, the former Texas Tech quarterback who transferred to OU in January after earning Big 12 offensive newcomer-of-the-year honors.
  • Bell ranked seventh in the Big 12 in clutch-weighted expected points added, a ESPN metric which measures a quarterback’s impact on clutch plays. The senior, who moved to tight end this spring, added 19.85 points on clutch plays which ranked him ahead of Mayfield, Knight, Ash and Texas’ Case McCoy. For comparison’s sake, Petty’s 69.82 CWEPA led the Big 12 and the league average was 14.7.
Summary: There are several interesting takeaways from these tidbits ... Petty’s exceptional season was not one without flaws, but he remains the Big 12’s best quarterback, particularly with his hunger to improve on his weaknesses. ... Webb could have arguably been considered the Big 12’s second-best quarterback as a true freshman, despite watching his teammate Mayfield earn the newcomer of the year honor. ... Bell and Sams might be more valuable to their teams at their new positions, but both players were productive under center in 2013. ... People are quick to point out Walsh’s weaknesses, but he has a clear track record of being a productive playmaker for OSU.
With spring ball done, we’ll be reexamining and re-ranking the positional situations of every Big 12 team, beginning Monday with quarterbacks. Some of these outlooks will look different in August. But here’s how we see them post-spring:

1. Baylor (pre-spring ranking: 1): After lighting up Big 12 defenses last fall, Bryce Petty thinks there’s still room for improvement going into his second and final season as Baylor’s starting QB. He spent spring break with QB guru George Whitfield working on pocket presence and completing passes in the face of the blitz. Petty connected on 62 percent of his throws last season while finishing fourth nationally in passing yards. If that completion percentage goes up by even just a little bit, look out.

2. Kansas State (2): Outside Petty, Jake Waters owns the most proven track record in the league. That speaks to the inexperience of the position in the conference, but it also speaks to the way Waters closed out last season. While quarterbacking the Wildcats to wins in six of their seven final games, he actually posted a better Adjusted Total QBR than Petty during that stretch. Even with Tyler Lockett sitting out, Waters still delivered a crisp spring game performance and seems poised for a big final season in the “Little Apple.”

3. Oklahoma (3): Trevor Knight might have been underwhelming in the Sooners’ spring game. But don’t let that be a deception. After recovering from some minor early season injuries in 2013, Knight took a major step forward late in the season, capped with a spectacular MVP performance in the Allstate Sugar Bowl win over Alabama. He’ll have to stay healthy (which was a problem his first season), and he’ll have to become more consistent with his passing accuracy. But the talent and upside is there for Knight to have a monster sophomore campaign. The Sooners still need to iron out who exactly Knight’s backup will be, especially given his penchant for getting nicked up. Cody Thomas and Justice Hansen failed to move the needle much in the spring. Blake Bell is at tight end. And Baker Mayfield, while terrific the entire spring after transferring in from Texas Tech, remains ineligible for 2014.

4. Texas Tech (4): While Knight had a lackluster spring game outing, Davis Webb had a spectacular one. Texas Tech’s lack of QB depth is scary (incoming freshman Patrick Mahomes will be the backup by default), but there’s no getting around how impressive Webb has been dating back to Texas Tech’s dominating win over Arizona State in the National University Holiday Bowl. Including that game and three open scrimmages in the spring, Webb threw 17 touchdowns with no interceptions. This spring, Webb showed more zip on his passes after adding close to 20 pounds of muscle. He hopes to get even stronger this summer, and has plans to train with Whitfield in May. If Webb goes down with injury, the Red Raiders will probably be toast. But if he stays upright, Tech could emerge as a dark-horse contender for the Big 12 title.

5. Oklahoma State (5): After a series of steady performances over the spring, veteran J.W. Walsh will go into the summer as the overwhelming favorite to open as the starter against Florida State. Even though he struggled with his accuracy and decision-making in 2013, the Oklahoma State coaching staff loves Walsh’s leadership, toughness and commitment. If Walsh can revert to completing passes at the rate he did as a redshirt freshman two seasons ago (67 percent), he could enjoy plenty of success. If he doesn’t, the Cowboys have a couple of other interesting options, who both had their moments in the spring. Walk-on Daxx Garman has the strongest arm on the roster. True freshman Mason Rudolph can make all the throws, too, though clearly still has a steep learning curve.

6. TCU (8): The Horned Frogs made the biggest jump on this list with the addition of transfer Matt Joeckel, who after backing up Johnny Manziel the past two seasons should be the odds-on favorite to take over as the starter. Coming from Texas A&M, Joeckel actually has the most experience among TCU’s other QBs operating the offense Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie installed during the spring. Joeckel’s arrival gives TCU the luxury to bring talented incoming freshmen Foster Sawyer and Grayson Muehlstein along more slowly. It also allows the Horned Frogs to use Trevone Boykin the way they did last season, as a receiver and situational quarterback. With only one career start, Joeckel, of course, has much to prove. But the same goes for the majority of the league’s QBs.

7. Texas (6): The Longhorns ended spring ball with Tyrone Swoopes as their starting QB. That didn’t go well in the spring game, as Swoopes struggled mightily through most of the scrimmage. Texas could move back up the Big 12 QB rankings if USC transfer Max Wittek announces his intentions to enroll. But until he does, he can’t be counted on. Throw in David Ash’s foot injury and concussion past and true freshman Jerrod Heard’s inexperience, and Charlie Strong’s first summer in Austin figures to include plenty of QB uncertainty.

8. West Virginia (7): With Clint Trickett sitting out the spring after shoulder surgery, juco transfer Skyler Howard had ample opportunity to make a mark. Instead, the Mountaineers exited spring the way they started it -- with Trickett still atop the depth chart. A dearth of options is not coach Dana Holgorsen’s problem. Veteran Paul Millard outplayed Howard in the spring game. Logan Moore emerged after moving from receiver to QB before the spring. And four-star signee William Crest will join the fray this summer. But Holgorsen must get better QB play than he did last fall for the Mountaineers to recover from a disastrous losing season.

9. Iowa State (9): According to coach Paul Rhoads, the Cyclones’ QB competition will linger into mid-August. But Grant Rohach will go into the summer with the clear edge after outperforming Sam B. Richardson and Joel Lanning in the spring game. Rohach showed promise late last season, leading Iowa State to a come-from-behind, overtime victory at West Virginia in the season finale. But after furiously rotating through QBs in recent years, the Cyclones understandably want to give this derby due process to play out.

10. Kansas (10): Six of the league’s teams went into the spring with a quarterback battle. Of those, only the Jayhawks came out with an unequivocal starter. After sophomore Montell Cozart outshined Jake Heaps and UCLA transfer T.J. Millweard in the spring game, coach Charlie Weis wasted little time in declaring Cozart the starter. Cozart still has a long ways to go, especially with his passing. But at least Kansas now has a young dual-threat QB with upside to build around.
It was a quiet and productive spring at Oklahoma. The Sooners emerged relatively free of injuries and were able to tinker with their systems on both sides of the ball. This week we'll review OU's spring.

On Monday, we began with five questions that were answered during the Sooners' 15 practices. On Tuesday, we reviewed five questions that remain unanswered. On Wednesday, we took a look at five surprising Sooners. Today, we highlight the five disappointing developments of the spring.

[+] EnlargeBlake Bell
AP Photo/Darron CummingsAn injury limited what OU QB-turned-TE Blake Bell could do at his new position this spring.
Blake Bell's injury: Sooner nation was robbed of the chance to see Bell in his new tight end position after a MCL sprain forced him to miss the end of spring. It also robbed Bell of critical reps he could have used to improve at his new position. Luckily he should return in the summer, allowing him to get even more time at the position before preseason camp begins because once the Sooners start preparing for the season, all bets are off and it will be time for Bell to battle for a role in the offense.

Stanvon Taylor's development: The sophomore cornerback is a better player than he’s showing. Taylor earned the praise of Bob Stoops and Mike Stoops on signing day, as the two brothers compared him to Aaron Colvin. He stepped on campus with a hungry desire to make an impact and started against Tulsa early in his freshman season but he hasn’t made the jump you would expect from a player of his talent as a sophomore. Dakota Austin passed him on the depth chart, and Taylor currently doesn’t look like a guy who can slide into Colvin’s spot without a drop off. Taylor isn’t a bust nor is a guy who won’t contribute this fall -- he just needs to take his game to another level if he’s going fulfill the upside that made him the No. 199 player in the ESPN 300 for the Class of 2013.

No dominant No. 2 receiver: Ideally, the Sooners would have seen one receiver emerge from the competition to show he wants to be a starter and centerpiece in OU’s passing game. Jordan Smallwood is the closest to filling that description, but he hasn’t run away from the competition with K.J. Young, Dannon Cavil and Derrick Woods among the receivers nipping at his heels. Sterling Shepard will be OU’s No. 1 target and will make plenty of plays as a junior, but someone else needs to step up as the No. 2 guy and force defenses to account for them if OU’s offense is going to really take off in 2014.

Offensive line injuries: The Sooners never really could get their entire offensive line together this spring with injuries to guard Nila Kasitati, tackle Tyrus Thompson, guard Adam Shead and others during spring practices. Center Ty Darlington's smooth transition into the starting center spot got overlooked in the spring, but the uncertainty along the rest of the offensive line could hurt the Sooners in the fall or could pay off since it seasoned the overall depth of OU’s offensive front. It was a disappointing spring because a roster full of healthy bodies would have spurred competition and forced returning starters to get better, much like it did on with the Sooners’ defensive line.

Offensive production in the spring game: Baker Mayfield was the lone quarterback to pass for more than 60 yards, Daniel Brooks was the lone running back to rush for more than 30 yards and no OU receiver recorded more than 62 receiving yards. To be fair, OU didn’t exactly break out its full arsenal on offense, but more individual playmaking would have made the Sooners’ coaching staff head into the summer with more confidence. The Sooners' offense didn’t look like a unit that was overflowing with players who will make game-changing plays this fall. OU has talented skill players; they just need those guys to continue to develop and, once the games really matter, to become consistent, productive playmakers.
It was a quiet and productive spring at Oklahoma. The Sooners emerged relatively free of injuries and were able to tinker with their systems on both sides of the ball. This week we'll review OU's spring. On Monday, we began with five questions that were answered during the Sooners' 15 practices. Today, we move on to five questions that remain unanswered.

[+] EnlargeTrevor Knight
Mark D. Smith/USA TODAY SportsTrevor Knight is already a good QB, as evidenced by his play last season but now he needs to take the next step in his development.
Which Trevor Knight will trigger the Sooners this fall? Knight left no doubt how good he could be after his MVP performance in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. Now the OU quarterback needs to answer how good he is over the course of a season. It’s easy to forget Knight is just a sophomore with plenty of developing to do if he plans to become one of the Big 12’s top signal-callers. His subpar spring game is an example, as he finished with 53 passing yards and one interception during a disappointing showing. Transforming from a good quarterback to a great quarterback is the next step in Knight’s progression.

Who will be the starting running back? The competition promises to continue into August, but don't be surprised if it continues deep into the season. OU has plenty of good options including sophomores Keith Ford and Alex Ross, but this competition could be decided by what the Sooners' running backs do without the ball in their hands. Ross had an excellent spring but didn’t star in the spring game while Ford showed he can play at a Big 12 level as a freshman. The running back battle could be the most exciting battle to monitor this fall.

How will Ahmad Thomas be used? The sophomore has really come on since the middle of last season. He saw time against Alabama and held his own, then built upon that performance with a strong spring. It would be a surprise if he’s not a major contributor on OU’s defense; it’s just a matter of where he plays. Thomas is a versatile defensive back who can play safety or nickelback. He’s the type of guy the Sooners can leave on the field -- regardless of the offense they’re facing -- and feel confident he will make an positive impact against the run or pass.

Who will back up Knight? Baker Mayfield is the obvious choice … in 2015. The former Texas Tech quarterback was the standout of the spring game and will have Knight feeling like his starting spot is never secure when he becomes eligible to play for the Sooners after sitting out the 2014 season. This fall, however, Knight’s backup remains a question mark. Redshirt freshman Cody Thomas looks like he could develop into a quality quarterback, and the new NCAA rules will allow the Sooners to quicken his development like never before. Thomas should be considered the favorite to win the No. 2 job but Justice Hansen's decision to enroll early has allowed him to get one spring under his belt and he could arrive in the fall much more comfortable than the average freshman. This is another battle that could last deep into August.

Who will make big plays in the passing game? Austin Bennett. Blake Bell. Jordan Smallwood. Durron Neal. K.J. Young. Those names could emerge as key targets for Knight this fall but none of them have locked down a spot in the offense quite yet. Smallwood, who probably had the best spring of the bunch, will undoubtedly play a role but OU needs someone to emerge as a legit, consistent threat alongside Sterling Shepard or risk watching one of the Big 12’s top returning receivers be double teamed constantly.

Mayfield stars without regret

April, 15, 2014
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He achieved perfection, all while making his dream come true.

Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield left the Oklahoma Memorial Stadium turf as the clear star of the spring game on Saturday. The former Texas Tech quarterback was 9 of 9 for 125 yards and two touchdowns during his first public appearance as a member of the Sooners. Mayfield was the Big 12 offensive freshman of the year at Texas Tech before electing to transfer to OU in January but is ineligible to play in 2014 due to transfer rules.

[+] EnlargeMayfield
Mark D. Smith/USA TODAY SportsFormer Texas Tech QB Baker Mayfield made a big impression with his performance in the Oklahoma spring game.
“He’s a guy that’s performing extremely well for the 14th day [in the program],” said offensive coordinator Josh Heupel, who also coaches the quarterbacks. “In our meeting room, he’s the most experienced guy. Obviously some of that [experience] wasn’t here but he performed in a great way. The guys in our program love him and we look forward to him being eligible whenever that is.”

Mayfield started seven games for the Red Raiders as a true freshman walk on a year ago, finishing with 2,315 passing yards with 12 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He grew up as an OU fan, despite living in Austin, Texas, sparking his decision to transfer and play for the Sooners.

“I’m disappointed for him that the rules don’t allow him to play (in 2014), but in the end he has been a great teammate to these guys and the staff,” head coach Bob Stoops said. “We all love him. He has fit in wonderfully here.”

Mayfield’s first spring as a Sooner has re-affirmed his decision. With Blake Bell's move to tight end and Kendal Thompson’s transfer, Mayfield got plenty of chances to show what he can do behind projected starting quarterback Trevor Knight. And he got to put on the crimson and cream jersey he admired as a youth. He capped it all off with his stellar spring game outing after approaching the spring game as his bowl game since he’s not expecting to see the field this fall.

“I was trying to make it like a game time experience for myself so that I’ll have that thought and mentality for the next time I have that experience,” he said. “I felt I did well, but there’s definitely stuff I need to work on. I’m patient enough. I think I’ll be OK. It’ll be rough, but I’ll get through it.”

A full season without games will be tough but it’s likely to pay dividends for the Sooners and Mayfield. He’s slated to run the scout team this fall, providing an unusually experienced signal caller to challenge Mike Stoops’ defense as it prepares for games during the 2014 season. Meanwhile, a superb OU defense will, undoubtedly, force Mayfield to continue to develop as a quarterback.

“I’ll get better and make them better too,” Mayfield said. “They’ll be doing their stuff, throwing blitzes at me, doing all sorts of things. That will only make me better.”

It’s not the ideal situation but Mayfield has no regrets, he’s enthusiastic about being a Sooner.

“I had the plan to come here because I wanted to win a national championship,” said Mayfield, who claimed he would have picked OU even if Bell and Thompson remained in the quarterback competition. “Whether it’s driving the defense on scout team or doing whatever. I grew up an OU fan, so I’m just trying to help out however I can.”

Oklahoma held its spring game on Saturday with excitement around the program continuing to build this offseason. Here are some postgame thoughts, offense only, on OU’s spring finale. Check back later today for a defense only post. To be clear, this is an informal collection of my observations after the spring game. For a more formal and general spring game review, check out this post from earlier today.

  • Undoubtedly some Sooners fans left the stadium disappointed with what they saw from Trevor Knight. He finished 5-of-14 for 53 yards with one interception. Yet it’s not time to panic, for several reasons. First, Sterling Shepard was on the sidelines. The junior will be Knight’s go-to receiver and could become one of the Big 12’s best playmakers. Two, Knight was going against a solid and athletic defense while using a relatively vanilla offense. Three, injuries along the offensive line didn’t make things any easier, with multiple projected starters out of the spring game. Finally, Knight's ability to make plays with his feet was taken away with his blue, no-hit jersey limiting his impact in the running game.
  • [+] EnlargeTrevor Knight
    Mark D. Smith/USA TODAY SportsTrevor Knight had a rough outing on Saturday.
    Nonetheless, Knight must play better. Period. Some people have been quick to insert his name among the nation’s best after his Allstate Sugar Bowl performance. He’s still young, relatively inexperienced and has been inconsistent at times early in his career. Let’s wait until he’s consistently efficient before we anoint him as one of the nation’s, or even the Big 12’s, top quarterbacks.
  • Anyone who was surprised by Baker Mayfield’s performance must have missed the rest of the Big 12 in 2013. The former Texas Tech quarterback was the Big 12 offensive freshman of the year for a reason.
  • Mayfield seemed genuinely excited to be a Sooner. He grew up an OU fan and said he would have decided to join the Sooners even if Blake Bell had not changed positions and Kendal Thompson did not transfer. While he is ineligible to play this fall, his presence could pay off big time. OU’s defense will be tested in ways you normally wouldn’t expect from a scout-team quarterback and the Sooners defense should make Mayfield a much better player with its overall talent and playmakers all over the field.
  • Tight end Taylor McNamara had two touchdown catches in the spring game. Could a pass-catching tight end return to OU’s weekly game plans this fall? Maybe. A wait-and-see approach would be wise, as adding a big receiving threat has been a goal for the past two seasons. McNamara and former quarterback Bell, who missed the spring game with an injury, appear to be the most likely candidates at tight end if it does happen.
  • Speaking of receiving threats, true freshman Dimitri Flowers should make an impact this fall. He spent a lot of time with the first-team offense before a hyper-extended knee ended his day. He can block, he can catch and he’s picked up the offense as if he’s entering his junior season. It appears OU has found a hidden gem in the three-star Class of 2014 signee. Don’t be surprised if he emerges as the big-bodied receiving threat OU’s offense has been lacking as his blocking and overall versatility could secure a key role in the offense, allowing the Sooners to adapt on the fly.
  • OU has talented receivers but will miss Jalen Saunders, a likely NFL draft pick. K.J. Young and Austin Bennett, Jordan Smallwood and Derrick Woods each showed flashes of ability but need to develop quickly if the Sooners hope to provide quality receiving options for Knight this fall.
  • Nobody seized the starting running back spot with a eye-opening day. Daniel Brooks led the way with eight carries for 67 yards and Keith Ford finished with nine carries for 29 yards. Alex Ross, who had been praised throughout the spring, added three carries for six yards. The door is wide open for Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine, two ESPN 300 running back signees, to make an immediate impression on the coaching staff and earn carries this fall. The Sooners need someone to step up and make defenses account for them from the running back position this fall. It doesn’t matter who it is.
  • OU could end up looking back at this spring as a critical time for developing depth along the offensive line. Several linemen, including guards Adam Shead and Nila Kasitati and tackle Tyrus Thompson, sat out the spring game, allowing backups such as tackles Josiah St. John and Sam Grant to get plenty of chances. The offensive line struggled at times.
  • The backup quarterback position remains up in the air, but Cody Thomas, a redshirt freshman, looked solid, going 5-of-9 for 52 yards and a touchdown. Justice Hansen, a true freshman, struggled with the speed of the game at times, finishing 4-of-8 for 58 yards and one touchdown but with some good moments.

Spring game review: Oklahoma

April, 14, 2014
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The excitement surrounding Oklahoma’s football program is night and day compared to a year ago. The Sooners announced 43,500 fans in attendance for their spring game on Saturday, a school record. Last year’s announced crowd was 29,200. With the Trevor Knight era fully underway, here’s a recap of OU’s spring game.

[+] EnlargeMayfield
Mark D. Smith/USA TODAY SportsFormer Texas Tech quarterback Baker Mayfield was impressive in the spring game.
Best offensive performance: Baker Mayfield stole the show, completing 9 of 9 pass attempts for 125 yards and two touchdowns. The former Texas Tech quarterback, who transferred to OU in January after earning Big 12 offensive freshman of the year honors last season, is ineligible for the 2014 season. Nonetheless, Mayfield outshined Knight, the Sooners’ projected starter this fall, with his flawless outing. Mayfield has Big 12 game experience, and it showed throughout the spring game. He’ll spend this fall giving OU’s defense fits while leading the scout team.

Best defensive performance: Linebacker Eric Striker looked like he was in midseason form with two sacks and one tackle for loss. Striker, who starred in OU’s Allstate Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama, picked up right where he left off. He continually got into the offensive backfield and appeared unblockable at times coming off the edge. He could be poised for a dominant junior season.

Best debut: True freshman Dimitri Flowers looks ready to help the offense immediately. One of the scariest scenes of the spring game was Flowers lying on the ground, clutching his knee. Fortunately for the Sooners, it was just a hyper-extended knee for the fullback/tight end hybrid. Flowers has impressed with his football IQ and receiving skills during his short time on campus as an early enrollee. He tied for the team high with four receptions and finished with 40 receiving yards. He should be a key contributor this fall.

Notable play: Sophomore linebacker Jordan Evans had the hit of the day against K.J. Young on a receiver screen. Evans’ hit popped the ball up in the air, allowing defensive tackle Jordan Wade to secure Knight’s lone interception of the day. It was a key play because Evans played with the No. 1 defense after returning starter Frank Shannon, OU's leading tackler in 2013, missed the game for personal reasons. Shannon's status remains unclear, so the Sooners could turn to Evans to be the man alongside Dominique Alexander this fall if Shannon is unable to return. Evans looked ready for the task on Saturday.

Developing storyline: OU’s defense clearly won the day. The Sooners are young, talented and versatile on that side of the ball, led by Striker and returning All-Big 12 defensive end Charles Tapper. OU’s secondary, a potential concern with the loss of two-time All-Big 12 cornerback Aaron Colvin, had a strong day in coverage, particularly the starting unit. Sophomore Dakota Austin was solid sliding into Colvin’s former spot opposite Zack Sanchez. If this unit continues to develop, it could be one of the best and more versatile defenses in the nation.

Biggest question answered: Few, if any, questions got answered. The defense was dominant, but that wasn't surprising, and nobody separated themselves in the running back derby or backup quarterback race. Keith Ford and Alex Ross will welcome true freshmen Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine into the running back competition this summer. At quarterback, Cody Thomas outperformed Justice Hansen, but didn’t put a stranglehold on the backup quarterback position heading into the summer. The best development of the game was a relatively injury-free outing.

Biggest question emerging: Which Knight will lead the Sooners in 2014? He didn't look like the Allstate Sugar Bowl MVP, going 5-of-14 for 53 yards and one interception. Evans' hit led to his lone pick, but he was inefficient and unproductive. The defense carries a large portion of the blame and the receiving corps, without top target Sterling Shepard and potential starter Durron Neal, also contributed to Knight's underwhelming spring finale. Knight knows he will have to perform much better for OU's national title dreams to approach reality.

Quotable: “I don’t know that you ever get anything answered in 15 practices. What I feel like is there has been improvement. Players that haven’t had a ton of experience have more now. We’ll build on it.” -- OU coach Bob Stoops
Justice Hansen could look back upon this spring as a turning point in his life.

The Oklahoma quarterback enrolled early to participate in spring football with his new team. And, with Kendal Thompson’s departure and Blake Bell’s shift to tight end, Hansen is getting plenty of opportunities to impress.

[+] EnlargeJustice Hansen
Max Olson/ESPNJustice Hansen, who was ranked No. 100 in the 2014 ESPN 300, could be the Sooners' backup QB this season.
The Edmond, Okla., native is showing slow but steady improvement during his first semester at OU, even though he’s being challenged in new ways on a daily basis.

“It’s extremely hard on every one of our players who come in here, but especially on our quarterbacks,” offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said. “It’s extremely difficult. There’s so much thrown at you so quickly. Within six weeks of being here, you’re on the practice field going against guys that have been here, they’ve been through the system and understand the system.”

The Under Armour All-American and former ESPN 300 prospect's talent has been on display, but so has his inexperience.

“Justice coming right from high school has the biggest adjustment,” coach Bob Stoops said. “He’s really a talented guy with his arm and how he’s worked.”

Hansen is having the normal ups and downs of a freshman with good days and good throws alongside bad throws and mental mistakes. But, more importantly, he’s improving and learning from the setbacks.

“It’s overwhelming at times,” said Heupel, who also coaches the Sooners’ quarterbacks. “But the first four days before spring break you saw him get better each day. Since they've been back, he’s comprehended things even better.”

OU needs Hansen or redshirt freshman Cody Thomas to prove they’re ready to handle backup duties behind starter Trevor Knight. Saturday’s spring game could go a long way in showing if Hansen is ready to handle the task or if he’ll have to postpone his arrival as a impact player until a much later date. With some much to learn, Hansen would have to be considered the dark horse candidate to earn the No. 2 quarterback role as he joins Texas Tech transfer Baker Mayfield, who is ineligible for the 2014 season, as lone newcomers to the quarterbacks room. Yet, if his development continues or even accelerates, he could be ready sooner rather than later.

“I think by the time you finish spring ball, you get through summer and you come back into fall camp, he’ll be really comfortable with what we’re doing,” Heupel said. “I expect him to grow leaps and bounds by the time fall ends.”

No matter what happens, the early enrollee has impressed Knight, who is the veteran of the group even though he’s preparing for his redshirt sophomore season. One trait in particular has stood out to OU’s incumbent starter.

“His composure, he stays really composed, it’s not a 'rah, rah' thing,” Knight said. “He takes constructive criticism extremely well. He comes in the meeting room and works as hard as he can and he’s answering questions, he’s done a really good job.”
His voice sounds the same but the weight of his words land differently throughout the halls of the Switzer Center.

Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight is growing into his role as “the man” behind center this spring. His leadership in the hallways and meeting rooms of OU’s football building could be a key to the 2014 season.

[+] EnlargeTrevor Knight
Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesTrevor Knight's performance in the Sugar Bowl solidified his status at Oklahoma.
“Building off of last year and being the oldest guy, it kind of forces you to step up and be that leader,” Knight said. “I feel like guys are looking at me to be that guy and I think I’ve done a good job of being that and they’re following pretty well.”

For the majority of the 2013 season the quarterback spot remained unclear as Knight was joined by Kendal Thompson and Blake Bell as options at the position. Now, after Knight’s stellar Allstate Sugar Bowl, the sophomore is the unquestioned starter and the guy the offense will turn to for leadership when adversity hits.

“[It’s] his ability to speak with a louder stick in the weight room and locker room,” offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said. “For him to [show] more of his personality and [put his] stamp on the offense.”

Yet, Knight’s role has undertaken a bigger change than his daily approach. Heupel often praised his work ethic and habits while he was redshirting in 2012, saying Knight was preparing as if he was the starter despite being the scout team quarterback at the time.

That part of Knight’s personality is as present as ever.

“I don’t know if it’s necessarily a change in his demeanor,” Heupel said. “He’s a great leader, a great kid on and off the field. He’s extremely competitive. He’s the same guy every day, in the meeting room or on the field, he doesn’t change. Hopefully that will transcend through entire football team.”

Those traits are one of the reasons the coaching staff didn’t think twice about naming him the opening day starter a year ago.

“I don’t notice it being much different,” coach Bob Stoops said. “Because he always did what you wanted him to do.”

It’s easy to forget that Knight is still a young player with three years to play and plenty of improvement to make. He’s the oldest player in the quarterback room with Baker Mayfield (who is ineligible for 2014 after transferring from Texas Tech after his true freshman season), redshirt freshman Cody Thomas and true freshman Justice Hansen alongside him.

“It’s nice to be the oldest guy and be that leader,” Knight said. “But I know that I haven’t accomplished much yet. I’m still a young guy so I want to build off of that and get better and better every day.”

This spring isn’t just about becoming comfortable as the focal point and leader of the offense. Knight needs to become a better quarterback.

“He continues to progress,” Heupel said. “We think he has a great command of what we’re doing and he’s understanding defenses better. He should only get better at every practice with every rep.”
Spring football is just over the horizon.

Oklahoma is coming off a banner 2013 campaign featuring an 11-win season and an Allstate Sugar Bowl win over SEC power Alabama, yet the Sooners have several position groups they need to address if they hope to make a national title run in 2014. This week, we’ll take a closer look at the top five position groups that need to improve during spring practices. We finish the series with the Sooners' quarterbacks at No. 1.

The breakdown

[+] EnlargeTrevor Knight
Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesTrevor Knight showed a glimpse of his potential with Sugar Bowl win.
On campus: Trevor Knight, So.; Baker Mayfield, So.; Cody Thomas, redshirt freshman; Justice Hansen, Fr.

Summary: It would be easy to ignore the 12 regular season games that led up to the Sugar Bowl. Sorry, this isn’t that kind of party, thus the Sooners quarterback position needs the biggest improvement this spring. Blake Bell has moved to tight end, Kendal Thompson elected to transfer and Knight was knocked out of multiple games by injury last season.

This could be a position that provides the foundation of a championship run or become a position of peril in 2014.

Knight’s MVP performance in OU’s 45-31 win over Alabama was a glimpse of his potential. Yet he had struggles during eight games played in the regular season, finishing with 819 passing yards with nine touchdowns and five interceptions, which includes his 348-yard, four-touchdown performance in the Sugar Bowl. His improvement during the final stretch of the season, particularly against Iowa State, Kansas State and Alabama, should give fans confidence the Sugar Bowl was a sign of things to come, not an aberration. He can further that message with a strong spring.

Knight didn’t finish two of the five games he started as a redshirt freshman, so developing quality depth is the most important goal of the spring.

Mayfield, who walked on to the Sooners after leaving Texas Tech, is on campus but won’t be eligible to play in 2014. His presence will be valuable nonetheless since he’s had success in the Big 12 before his arrival in Norman, Okla.

Thomas is set to play baseball for the Sooners as well as take part in spring football. OU is confident he can handle both and continue to develop. As the lone quarterback other than Knight who was on campus last fall and still remains at the position, it is an important spring for Thomas to show he will be ready to play this fall. He’s an intriguing prospect with tremendous upside, so it wouldn’t a major surprise if he handled all his spring duties with ease and lessened the concern about the position as a whole.

Hansen’s decision to enroll early looks like a brilliant one after Bell’s move to tight end and Thompson’s transfer. He’ll get the opportunity to show the coaching staff he’s ready to play immediately and could win the backup job with a stellar spring. The Under Armour All-American is a good fit for OU’s system and has the tools to be a productive quarterback. It will be interesting to see how quickly he transitions into a collegiate quarterback.

The list

Big 12 lunchtime links

January, 13, 2014
Jan 13
12:00
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I feel for Wes Welker having to wear this helmet. He still scored a TD Sunday.
In the next few weeks leading up to signing day it’s a great time to take a position-by-position glance at Oklahoma’s roster. This series, called State of the Position, will look at the playmakers, up-and-comers and current commitments or targets at each position as recruiting really heats up during these final weeks before signing day on Feb. 5.

Starter/contributors: sophomore Trevor Knight, senior Blake Bell

Knight and Bell took pretty much all of the snaps at quarterback in 2013. That’s a good and bad thing. Knight looked like a future star while winning the Allstate Sugar Bowl and OU wouldn’t have been there without Bell’s exceptional performance during the final drive of Bedlam. Yet, OU’s passing game didn’t look anything like the attack we’ve come to expect from the Sooners, passing for more than 250 yards just twice in 2013.

But the future looks bright for Knight, the redshirt sophomore who was outstanding in the Sugar Bowl and appears poised to enter 2014 in the same spot he started 2013: OU’s starting quarterback.

Bell, a senior, had terrific games against Tulsa, Notre Dame, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech but stumbled in losses to Texas and Baylor. He’s a solid option but likely faces long odds to supplant Knight.

On the cusp: junior Kendal Thompson, redshirt freshman Cody Thomas

Thompson could be in position to slide in as Knight’s backup in 2014, despite Bell’s experience advantage. Coach Bob Stoops said Thompson is a better fit for some of the quarterback run game tactics they’ve used in 2013 as an explanation for turning to the redshirt junior during Bedlam. So seeing Thompson secure a spot on the depth chart wouldn’t be a major surprise.

Thomas is coming off a redshirt season where he impressed while running the scout team during his first semester on campus. This spring will be critical for him as he tries to rise on the depth chart although his baseball duties could make that challenge even harder.

On the recruiting trail: current commitment Justice Hansen

The No. 101 player in the ESPN 300, Hansen will add another promising prospect to the quarterbacks meeting room. The UnderArmour All-American brings size, athleticism and the physical skills to excel running any offense.

Overall Grade: B+

The Sooners have a sophomore quarterback with exceptional talent in Knight, a veteran in Bell, an intriguing option in Thompson and two solid young prospects in Thomas and Hansen. If you add former Texas Tech quarterback Baker Mayfield, who plans to walk on, the Sooners have a meeting room with depth and options unmatched by anyone in the Big 12. Yet without consistent production from Knight, or someone else, it won’t matter. If Knight can consistently perform at a high level as a sophomore, this grade quickly jumps to an A+. If not, OU could have a meeting room full of talented but inconsistent quarterbacks, much like it did in 2013.
Last month, in a stunning move, Baker Mayfield decided to transfer from Texas Tech despite winning the starting quarterback job in the preseason as a walk-on true freshman.

Mayfield, who also started Texas Tech’s regular-season finale against Texas, had initially vaguely cited a “miscommunication” with coach Kliff Kingsbury as the reason.

Just as stunning, Mayfield later revealed he would be enrolling at Oklahoma, which in the spring will have five scholarship quarterbacks, including freshman Trevor Knight, who was named MVP in the Allstate Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama.

Even though he was a walk-on at Texas Tech, Mayfield is still bound by NCAA transfer rules, and the Red Raiders have not granted him a release to transfer within the conference. Under Big 12 and NCAA rules, if Mayfield transferred to Oklahoma anyway, not only would he have to sit out a year, but he would lose a season of eligibility.

Mayfield, however, is hoping this week Texas Tech will grant his appeal to be eligible right away.

In an interview with ESPN.com Wednesday evening, Mayfield went into more detail about why exactly he left Texas Tech; and why now he wants to go to Oklahoma, even though the Sooners seem to have their quarterback of the future in Knight:

[+] EnlargeBaker Mayfield
Brendan Maloney/USA TODAY SportsBaker Mayfield is hoping to enroll at Oklahoma and compete for the starting quarterback job.
Jake Trotter: What was the reason that you decided to leave Texas Tech after being the starting quarterback to end the regular season?

Baker Mayfield: Well, a lot of things played into it. It was over time. When I got hurt [Week 5 at Kansas], there was no communication between me and my coach [Kingsbury]. When I got healthy, I didn’t know why I wasn’t playing right away. At that time, we were losing a couple games in a row. I was still clueless as to why I wasn’t playing. That was really frustrating for me because I started the first five games and we won. So, I just didn’t really know exactly what he was thinking or what the situation was. So that happened. And then going from a week-to-week basis not knowing whether I was going to play or not and how short the leash would be if I had an average half, how quickly I would be pulled or anything like that. It was making me uncomfortable, and I just didn’t want to be there anymore. I loved Lubbock and I loved my teammates. But going through that and then them tell me they’re still working on a scholarship for next fall, and I wouldn’t have one for this semester coming up. It was all that.

Trotter: So they told you they wouldn’t have a scholarship for you in the spring, either?

Mayfield: Exactly. They said they were still working on one for next fall.

Trotter: Was that the final straw for you?

Mayfield: I mean that was kinda leading up to it, yes. Then after the Texas game on Thanksgiving, the next week we went in, I was splitting second-team reps after starting on Thanksgiving. I still had no idea what was going on. I’d just had enough at that point.

Trotter: So after the Texas game, you were splitting second-teams behind Davis Webb?

Mayfield: Michael [Brewer] was going first. I don’t know if he [Kingsbury] did that by age, but there was no explanation for why he was doing it. Right when we started our first bowl practice, right before the practice, he [Kingsbury] said it was a straight-up competition and that was how they were going to determine the starting quarterback. I didn’t think that was really fair. I’m not one to be afraid of competition at all because I’ve gone through that my whole life at Lake Travis [Mayfield’s high school], too, and when I got to Tech. But I didn’t think that was fair because I had done my job when I had gotten the opportunity. I mean, I thought I needed more of a chance, and I wasn’t getting it. And they were splitting the reps equally so that was the last straw.

Trotter: So when you told Coach Kingsbury, what was his reaction and what was that conversation like?

Mayfield: I mean, he was shocked, although he was quoted saying he knew one of the quarterbacks was going to transfer. He was shocked to think it was me leaving. And he was saying how he had been behind me the whole time. I had no idea because of the miscommunication and the lack of communication, really. And not knowing what he was thinking. I mean, if you gave me another chance to go through it again, I still wouldn’t think he was behind me, and I was his guy the whole time. I know he did give me the opportunity to start in the first place, and I’m thankful for that. I worked my butt off to get there, and I thank for him for taking a chance on me -- starting a walk-on quarterback. But after that, when he was rotating us, there was no explanation.

Trotter: So do you feel like it was a lack of communication more than a miscommunication, which is the word you had used when you first decided to transfer?

Mayfield: Yeah, I would say that.

Trotter: What was the reaction of your teammates when you told them?

Mayfield: They understood. All the guys I loved and had gone through all those tough times with, they understood completely. They supported me. And I got nothing but good wishes from them. All of them, including all of the quarterbacks, understood.

Trotter: What was it like watching the National University Holiday Bowl on TV, or did you even watch it?

Mayfield: Oh, I watched all of it. I was so proud of them. I knew Arizona State was going to be a good team, but they just blew [it] out of the water. I was jumping up and down in Austin, Texas for those guys.

Trotter: OK, so you decide to leave Tech, were there any other schools you looked at?

Mayfield: I mean, yes, there were. I got some calls from places Tech had to released me to, but I wasn’t that interested.

[Kliff Kingsbury] was shocked to think it was me leaving. And he was saying how he had been behind me the whole time. I had no idea because of the miscommunication and the lack of communication, really.

-- Baker Mayfield, when he told Kingsbury he was transferring from Texas Tech
Trotter: Who were some of those schools?

Mayfield: East Carolina, Houston -- just some other schools that kinda talked to me back in high school, but nothing I was ever really interested in.

Trotter: So it seemed like OU was the one school you had in mind when you decided you were going to transfer, correct?

Mayfield: Yes. Out of high school, I applied to three schools right off the bat: Oklahoma, TCU and I think Tech was the third. But I didn’t really want to go to Tech until late in the spring of my senior year. Oklahoma and TCU were my first two options coming out of high school. That’s where I wanted to go. And I wasn’t going to give TCU another chance after they basically screwed my whole recruiting over from the start [TCU recruited Mayfield but never offered a scholarship]. So OU was where I’ve always wanted to go. I grew up an Oklahoma fan. I used to go to all the games watching a bunch of people who are in the NFL now.

Trotter: How do you become an OU fan in Austin?

Mayfield: That’s what a lot of people ask. I never really was a big fan of Texas, and when I traveled to OU games -- because my dad used to play and old coaches would give us tickets -- me at six years old to 12 -- I used to go to like two games a year before hitting high school football. I just grew up a fan. Then one of my best friends is Garrett Gilbert. When I watched him go through all of that at Texas, it just made me just absolutely hate what they did to him and watching fans boo a 20-year-old kid off the field, it was just terrible.

Trotter: So, have you talked to any OU coaches at all?

Mayfield: Not at all.

Trotter: Have you talked to any OU players?

Mayfield: I mean I know Trevor Knight, but not really. I congratulated a couple of them after the Sugar Bowl.

Trotter: So you’re just going to show up at OU and just show up for football practice -- is that the plan?

Mayfield: Well, I’m still waiting on my appeal, which is happening this Friday.

Trotter: You’re doing the appeal on your own. OU is not handling that, correct?

Mayfield: Correct. They can’t handle it because Texas Tech has blocked my communication to any Big 12 schools. And so, that’s what we’re having to deal with. The appeal will decide whether I can join the football team and also eligibility-wise and everything that involves football.

Trotter: So if they deny your appeal, what does that mean?

Mayfield: I haven’t thought about that, because I think I have a good case, and I think I should have a chance because I walked on to Texas Tech, I didn’t have anything paid for; I was not recruited. I just knew people at Texas Tech [and said] I’m just going to go to school there and have fun and go out for the football team.’ That’s what I did, and it wound up working out perfectly for me. And so, for them to have the final say as to where I can go for my future, it’s kinda ridiculous in my mind because they didn’t pay for anything, and I didn’t even have a scholarship promised to me for this next semester. So I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I’m hoping for the best for my own sake.

Trotter: If the appeal is denied, will you look at other schools since you won’t be eligible?

Mayfield: Yeah, I probably would, but I don’t know.

Trotter: But if they do grant the appeal, you will be going to OU?

Mayfield: Yes.

Trotter: I think people are confused by your decision to go to OU because you have somebody like Trevor Knight who seems pretty entrenched after that Sugar Bowl, and they have four other quarterbacks on scholarship. Why would you go to OU when you’d have a better chance of playing if you went somewhere else?

Mayfield: I know what they’re thinking. Trevor played phenomenal in the Sugar. He beat Alabama, which had arguably the top defense for five years in a row. Yeah, they can say that. But I’m not scared of competition at all. I like Trevor. He’s a nice guy. And I know Blake Bell is a big dude and has some good ability. I watched from the sideline [as he] beat us. He played one of his best games against Texas Tech. But I mean, I’m not scared of that at all. It’s not just about the football, too. Oklahoma is just a better academic opportunity as well. It’s just a better school. It’s just a better opportunity for me at this point.

Trotter: So this isn’t strictly a football decision for you? Is that what people don’t understand?

Mayfield: Exactly. I left Texas Tech because of the football. and that was frustrating to me. I had to get out of there as soon as possible before all of Lubbock erupted on me. I got out of there. Now it’s about finding a place to settle in and get comfortable. OU is a place that’s familiar to me.

Big 12 mailbag

December, 27, 2013
12/27/13
4:00
PM ET
In the final mailbag of 2013, we discuss West Virginia quarterbacks, Texas coaches, Baker Mayfield and bowl payouts.

To the ‘bag:

Connor in Austin, Texas, writes: Do you think that the last few seasons (let's go back to the 5-7 season) have been enough to legitimately tarnish the self-recruiting power of the Texas football program? I can't imagine 5-star prospects choosing to go to a school they know has underperformed over the years.

Jake Trotter: Texas’ recruiting has slipped a bit the past couple years. But tarnished? No way. Texas is Texas. And with the right coach, the Longhorns will surely be back to landing top-five classes annually.

[+] EnlargeChip Kelly
Tommy Gilligan/USA TODAY SportsChip Kelly leaving the Eagles to coach the Longhorns? Tough to see that one happening.
James in El Paso, Texas, writes: Jake, Do you think Chip Kelly is on the list for Texas, and do you think the talks for the head coaching job heat up once the Eagles' season is over?

Trotter: I actually don’t. Why would Kelly leave Philly after one year? The Eagles are a win away from making the playoffs, and with so much young offensive talent on that team, they ought to be a playoff fixture for years to come. I doubt Kelly bolted for Philly with the idea of going back to the college game after just one year. And I doubt Texas would want a coach under NCAA sanctions.

Scott in Edgewater, Md., writes: I heard West Virginia changed its fight song to "I'll Be Home For Christmas". Who is WVU going to select as QB next season? If you had to guess now, what is WVU's record next year at the end of the season? I would hope that you would pick them as having the toughest non-conference schedule in the league.

Trotter: West Virginia’s schedule next year is brutal. Before conference play, the Mountaineers play Alabama in Atlanta and Maryland on the road. Then in conference, West Virginia has to go to Oklahoma State, Texas and Texas Tech. If the Mountaineers win more than seven games, it would constitute an outstanding season. As for the quarterback, I feel like Dana Holgorsen wants Ford Childress to be the long-term answer. But is he? Childress did not play well in his two starts before the pectoral injury. And there will be plenty of competition in the spring with junior-college transfer Skyler Howard set to join the fray.

Alan in Austin, Texas, writes: Really enjoy the Big 12 coverage. Quick question about Baker Mayfield and walk-ons in general. Reports I have read indicate Tech is restricting where Mayfield transfer. This would seem to make sense with a scholarship player since the institution has made a financial investment in the player. However, for a non-scholarship player this comes across as being vindictive. Mayfield does have a pretty good insight into the program but given the type of offense that Tech runs with its limited number of plays and the emphasis on reads, this doesn't make sense to me. Any thoughts?

Trotter: There are all types of double standards in college football, and this is hardly the only one. A coach can take another job within a conference, but if a player does, he suffers severe repercussions to his eligibility. The rules are the rules. But there are a lot of more rules for players than for coaches.

Mike in Goldsby, Okla., writes: Assuming the rumors about Baker Mayfield walking on at Oklahoma turn out to be true, do you think he could be a starter next year?

Trotter: Assuming Mayfield would be eligible to play, I would be stunned. Mayfield is skilled. But he doesn’t fit the pistol option offense the Sooners have installed for the future with Trevor Knight. That said, in all likelihood Mayfield would not be eligible next season under transfer rules anyway. And if that turned out to be the case, he would be too far behind the other Oklahoma quarterbacks by the time 2015 rolled around to have much of a chance.

rtXC1 in Denison, Texas, writes: Hey Jake! Do you think Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott regrets not taking the entire Big 12 South while he could. That would've clearly been the No. 1overall conference in all sports.

Trotter: Don’t blame Scott. He tried twice. And both times, Texas thwarted the deal.

Scott in Plano, Texas, writes: Huge fan of the blog! With the Big 12 only filling in six bowls this year, what kind of financial impact does that have on the conference?

Trotter: The combined payouts of the Texas, New Era Pinstripe and Heart of Dallas bowls comes to around $4.6 million. Since the Big 12 didn’t have enough teams to fill out those bowls, that money is going to other conferences. However, Oklahoma going to the Allstate Sugar Bowl netted an extra $6 million (after expenses) for the conference. So even with three fewer bowl teams than last year, the Big 12 will actually reap more bowl money this year with the extra BCS game.

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