It sounds like Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops could have an extra wrinkle in his quarterback situation in 2014. Stoops told reporters at Big 12 media days on Tuesday that Texas Tech transfer quarterback Baker Mayfield should be eligible to play immediately this fall.
Mayfield surprised many when he decided to transfer from Lubbock this offseason. As a true freshman walk-on he threw for 2,315 yards, 12 touchdowns and nine interceptions in only eight appearances last year while battling for the starting role with fellow freshman Davis Webb and redshirt sophomore Michael Brewer. But Webb ultimately claimed the job in coach Kliff Kingsbury's first season with the Red Raiders. When Mayfield opted to transfer, Kingsbury blocked the freshman's transfer to Oklahoma, forcing the Sooners to appeal to the NCAA for immediate eligibility. On Monday Kingsbury told reporters the decision wasn't personal and simply stemmed from NCAA policy.
“Team policy. That’s it," Kingsbury said at Big 12 media days. "The NCAA has the in-conference policy for a reason.”
In January Mayfield told ESPN.com that the uncertainty of the Red Raiders' quarterback battle, as well as his own scholarship situation, played into the decision to transfer. In the interview Mayfield said Texas Tech hadn't planned on putting him on scholarship until the fall of 2014, but Kingsbury said the team had planned on offering Mayfield a scholarship this spring. Still, Mayfield felt he deserved the starting job for his role in the Red Raiders' 7-0 start to the '13 season. Texas Tech eventually ended the year on a five-game losing streak.
"At that time, we were losing a couple games in a row," Mayfield told ESPN.com. "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."
If Mayfield is able to play for Oklahoma this fall, his presence will add an interesting element to the Sooners' quarterback situation. Trevor Knight is a big name in Norman heading into the season after throwing for 348 yards and four touchdowns in a Sugar Bowl win over Alabama in January. Knight's emergence against the Crimson Tide was convincing enough to cause Stoops to move former passer Blake Bell to a tight end role. On Tuesday Stoops even said Bell will work exclusively at tight end this season, meaning Mayfield could become a viable and immediate backup option for Oklahoma.
It's not a stretch to wonder if Mayfield is the more proven quarterback between he and Knight. Mayfield threw for 314 yards and four touchdowns in a road loss to eventual Big 12 champ Baylor last year. He also earned Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year in 2013 without starring in a full-time starting role. Knight, meanwhile, effectively had one great game during his redshirt freshman season at Oklahoma, albeit in quite the spotlight against the vaunted Crimson Tide. A pass-first quarterback, Mayfield attempted more than twice as many passes (340) last year than Knight (134) did. He also threw for more than 200 yards in seven of his eight appearances. Knight, who admittedly is a bigger rushing threat, threw for more than 100 yards only twice. Mayfield appears to better fit the mold of a Landry Jones, a drop-back passer who found success at Oklahoma in years past.
Oklahoma is a trendy pick to emerge out of the Big 12 as a playoff contender, but Stoops certainly wants more consistency from his quarterback this season. The starter will have to jell with an offense that loses All-America center Gabe Ikard, running backs Damien Williams and Brennan Clay and fullback Trey Millard. Mayfield could be a key offseason pickup for Stoops and the Sooners if Knight can't reproduce the proficiency he demonstrated in the Sugar Bowl.