Oklahoma Football: Is Baker Mayfield the Answer at Quarterback?


After the debacle of 2014 and the flurry of coaching changes that ensued, the Oklahoma football Spring Game – slated for April 11 – can’t get here soon enough for Sooner fans.

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Besides whetting fans’ appetites for competitive football, this year’s OU Spring Game brings more intrigue than any in recent memory.

Will the defense show a pulse? Will one of the young wide receivers finally emerge? How will Lincoln Riley’s version of the Air Raid look? There are tons of burning questions surrounding Oklahoma football in 2015, but perhaps none so important as who will be the triggerman for offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley’s version of the Air Raid.

Many Sooner fans are ready to bid adieu to the Trevor Knight era and welcome Baker Mayfield, the much ballyhooed walk-on from Texas Tech, as OU’s quarterback savior.

But…is Mayfield the answer?

At first glance, the answer to this question may be a resounding “yes”; after all, Mayfield ran the Air Raid during his stint at Texas Tech. Because of this experience, many believe Mayfield already has a leg up on the rest of the quarterbacks on OU’s roster.

And, his performance during the 2014 Spring Game, when he clearly outshone Knight, turned many a Sooner fan into a Mayfield believer.

But, there are legitimate questions surrounding Mayfield, and they may not have easy answers. While Sooner fans are happy Mayfield’s in Norman, the obvious question on the minds of many is if Mayfield is so good, why didn’t he keep the starting job at Tech?

True, Mayfield lost the starting job to Davis Webb after an injury sidelined him for a four game stretch, but the whole situation suggests there’s a reason Tech Coach Kliff Kingsbury decided to stick with Webb.

Even though Mayfield won the Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year award for 2013 – a well-deserved accolade, considering he was the first true freshman walk-on to start a game at quarterback for an FBS team – a closer look at his body of work reveals some chinks in the armor.

In games against SMU and Stephen F. Austin, Mayfield threw for seven touchdowns and no interceptions, with a better than 70% completion percentage. Against TCU, Kansas State, Baylor and Texas, Mayfield threw for five touchdowns but served up seven interceptions. And, four of those touchdowns came during the Baylor game.

Worse yet, against TCU, Baylor and Texas, Mayfield’s completion percentage hovered around the mid-fifties. Even against lowly Texas State and Kansas, Mayfield threw for no touchdowns and a pair of picks. Bottom line is, once the competition heated up, Mayfield did not fare so well.

Nov 8, 2014; Norman, OK, USA; Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Trevor Knight (9) throws during the game against the Baylor Bears at Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

In 2013, Mayfield threw for 12 touchdowns and nine interceptions, for a TD to INT ratio of 1.33; in 2014, Trevor Knight threw for 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, garnering a TD to INT ratio of 1.16. By that metric, Mayfield represents a marginal improvement over Knight if past statistics are an indicator of future performance.

Is that sort of improvement good enough, considering that as recently as 2008, sophomore Sam Bradford threw for 50 touchdowns and only eight interceptions, for an eye-popping TD to INT ratio of 6.25?

Anyone with enough moxie to walk on at quarterback factory Texas Tech, start, leave that program and then put himself in a legitimate position to start at a storied program like OU is a gamer. However, before anointing Mayfield as the savior who will lead Oklahoma football out of the doldrums, Sooner fans should curb their enthusiasm with a healthy dose of skepticism.

The 2015 Spring Game will answer some questions, but the real measure of the state of OU quarterback play in 2015 will come in the fall.

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