- The health of the Heisman Trophy winner has everyone talking in SoCal. Plus, Georgia DC Mel Tucker puts star linebacker Roquan Smith in some elite company, and CeeDee Lamb bulks up to bolster Oklahoma's offense.
LOS ANGELES — Baker Mayfield made a grand entrance into Rose Bowl Media Day Saturday morning. Oklahoma’s Heisman Trophy winner, who has practiced this week with the Sooners but has been held out of other bowl activities including Thursday and Friday’s media availability, strolled into the ballroom halfway through the 45-minute session. Within a few heartbeats, a vacant podium in the corner of the room was swarmed by dozens of reporters and cameramen, many of whom appeared to bail out of other interviews in mid-sentence.
The normally loquacious senior from Texas has been battling a cold. He sounded hoarse and was much more low-key than usual but still pretty blunt. This was how the beginning of his interview session went.
First question: “How are you?”
Mayfield: “Been better.”
Second question: “Why did you decide to come today?
Mayfield: “So my teammates had to stop answering questions for you guys.”
Hearing about how all of his teammates and coaches were getting peppered with questions about his status was actually making Mayfield feel worse, so he rallied on Saturday morning. “I got sick of it, and I know they’re tired of it, too. They know I’m out there at practice, and like I said, I’m not dying, but I don't feel 100% right now.”
Mayfield dismissed any notion that he was just run-down from the grind of being the headliner of the college football awards circuit. “There was something going around,” he said. "A couple other guys on the team have had it. It’s flu-like. I wouldn't say it's the flu, but it's pretty much like that.”
Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley said the Sooners limited Mayfield in some areas this week. “His energy level is not normal for him right now.” Mayfield’s voice has been the biggest problem right now. He hopes to be back at 100% by Monday.
The remedies have been the usual: “Lots of medicine that I'm sick of taking, and too much tea and honey,” he said.
He attributed his creaky voice to yelling at practice Friday, not to any illness. “Yesterday was the best I’ve felt all week. But you know, taking a toll on me at practice means the next day I'm going to feel it. Yeah, I’ll be all right.”
Roquan Smith Belongs in Elite Company
Georgia defensive coordinator Mel Tucker has been around some elite talent in his time both in the NFL and as a college coach. I asked him what impresses him most about Georgia’s star linebacker Roquan Smith, who earlier this month became the first Bulldog to win the Butkus Award, honoring the nation’s top linebacker, after making 113 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss and a team-best 5.5 sacks:
“To be honest, it’s really the type of person that he is,” Tucker says. “Most of the great players I’ve been around are really freak athletes—Julius Peppers or a Peanut Tillman—but all of those guys are also outstanding people too. He’s in that mold. He’s got great athletic ability. He’s got the high football IQ. He has a passion for the game, but he’s a real guy. What you see is what you get. He’s a great teammate. He’s very coachable. He’s personable and you can trust him. That’s what I love about him.
“He wants to know the details. It’s important to him. He doesn’t like to make mistakes. He’s a signal caller. He’s grown into that role. In order to be able to do that, you’ve got to study. He loves it."
CeeDee Lamb's Freshman 22
Replacing Biletnikoff Award winner Dede Westbrook has been a group effort at Oklahoma, but one key addition has been the arrival of freshman CeeDee Lamb, who finished the regular season with 40 catches for 741 yards and seven TDs. The 6'3" product of Richmond, Texas, reported to Norman in June weighing just 173 pounds, but he says that he’s now up to 195. He credits the Sooners’ staff and a routine of eating prepared meals every three hours. He said he feels more stronger on the field and in the weight room. His power clean has increased from 185 pounds to 245. Although he says right now he doesn’t feel quite as fast as he used to, Lamb expects to get that burst back once he gets more comfortable with the added weight and spends more time in the training program.
"I feel like I can’t quite open up like I could back in high school,” says Lamb, who estimates that he was a mid 4.4 40 guy before and is now probably a mid-to-low 4.5 guy.