Baker Mayfield named Oklahoma's starting quarterback
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) Baker Mayfield's route to becoming Oklahoma's starting quarterback was unconventional.
But then, so is Mayfield - the Austin, Texas native grew up a Sooners fan in the center of Texas Longhorns country. Now, after starting his college career at Texas Tech, then transferring and sitting out a year, he's won the job for No. 19 Oklahoma over last year's starter, Trevor Knight, and Cody Thomas, last season's backup.
''It's a dream come true, coming out from when I used to tailgate right here on this patch of grass right here,'' Mayfield said after practice. ''Throw the ball around in my Quentin Griffin jersey, watch Jason White and Mark Clayton play. It's a dream come true to be able to go out there and play on the field they did and be able to try to replicate, duplicate what they did on the field.''
It's the second time Mayfield has walked on and earned a starting job in time for the opener.
''It says I've got a chip on my shoulder,'' he said. ''No matter what people say about me, I'm going believe in myself and as a quarterback you've got to believe in yourself. People are going to scrutinize you at all times. You've got a bunch of cameras in your face no matter what. You've got to do what you're capable of doing and believe in yourself no matter what.''
Offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley wanted the team to get used to Mayfield as the starter in time for the Sept. 5 season opener against Akron.
''It just came down to us needing to set our priorities on it,'' he said. ''They all played very well. Baker was able to minimize his mistakes a fraction more than those guys did and that's probably the biggest reason we made the decision.''
Riley said it was a close call.
''It was just like a prize fight, a 15-rounder where there wasn't one big knockout,'' he said. ''At the end, you just had to tally up the punches. It came out pretty close.''
As a freshman at Texas Tech, Mayfield passed for 2,315 yards and 12 touchdowns in eight games and was named Big 12 Offensive Newcomer of the Year. Mayfield sat out last season after transferring and impressed coaches and teammates with his work on the scout team.
Things fell into place for Mayfield when Riley was hired in January. Mayfield will run Riley's Air Raid offense, the same system he ran at Tech.
''When you know the system, you're able to react and do things that - if you're having to think about plays and thinking about what they're doing, you're not as good,'' Mayfield said. ''You're having to go slower. You just don't play good. So knowing your stuff always helps.''
Knight was the 2014 Sugar Bowl MVP and a key reason the Sooners were No. 4 last preseason. He started last season strong, but his downward spiral started with some critical mistakes late in a loss to TCU. He struggled against Baylor before being injured and sitting out the next three games. He returned for the bowl loss to Clemson and completed 13 of 37 passes for 103 yards with three interceptions to cap Oklahoma's disappointing 8-5 season.
Knight has started 15 games at Oklahoma, with career totals of 3,119 yards passing and 784 rushing. He still has earned enough respect to have been named a captain.
''Trevor is one of the biggest leaders of this team regardless of how this competition came out,'' Riley said. ''That has no bearing on it. If you ask Baker or anyone before this who was going to be elected captain, there was no doubt who it was going to be.''
Thomas will be the No. 3 quarterback. In his best game last season, against Texas Tech, he completed 10 of 20 passes for 133 yards and a touchdown and ran eight times for 103 yards.
Riley likes the depth.
''You never want it to happen, but we could sustain two injuries and keep rolling right along right now,'' he said. ''We're one of the few teams in the country to have that luxury and guys like Cody and Trevor and the way they carry themselves and the way they put the team first, it gives you that chance.''
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP.