One is a former Sugar Bowl MVP, one is a former Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year, and one came out of nowhere. All three are very much in the running to be Oklahoma's next starting quarterback and I wouldn't expect the competition to end until the later days of fall camp. All three (four if you include redshirt freshman Justice Hansen) quarterbacks had their bright moments in Saturday's annual Red/White game and all can make a case for claiming the QB1 prize.
|Spring Game QB Stats|
Many (including myself) thought that this was a competition just between Trevor Knight and Baker Mayfield but Cody Thomas blew that theory out of the water when he was the one to take the first offensive snap in Saturday's game. I wouldn't take this as a fluke either. Thomas was #2 on the depth chart last season and made seven appearances with three starts. While it's true that he wouldn't have played at all in 2014 had Mayfield been ruled eligible, it isn't true that Mayfield's eligibility this fall excluded him from the competition this fall. Thomas is in the race and believes that he has a chance to win it. He believes it so much that he quit playing baseball to focus his attention to football on a full-time basis.
"It was really hard to give up baseball because it's a sport that I love, but I'm definitely confident that it was the right decision," Thomas said after Saturday's game. "I'm glad that I'm full-time football right now and I'm committing myself more than I ever have."
While he, along with Knight and Mayfield, was struck by the interception bug on Saturday he also threw for the second most passing yards of the four quarterbacks and had the second highest yards per completion average. Those, combined with the fact that he was actually the starter, show that he's improved enough to be in the mix when everyone else thought he wasn't.
I would even say that Thomas may have an edge on incumbent starter Trevor Knight. Neither found the end zone with their arms on Saturday but Knight scored on a quarterback keeper near the goal line. Passing stats between the two are similar but Thomas also has a bit of a size advantage and possibly better decision making.
I would say that, even with two picks on Saturday, the job is still Baker Mayfield's to lose. He was my frontrunner going into the spring and remains so after. He, Knight and Thomas basically threw the same number of passes on Saturday with Mayfield having a considerably higher completion percentage which led to a considerable advantage in passing yards. He did throw two picks but was also the only one of the quarterbacks to get the ball into the end zone through the air.
"Baker is not a guy who is afraid to take chances and that is the Catch 22 in this offense," offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley said about the 2013 Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year. "You cannot be scared but at the same time they have to be calculated and smart."
"Personally I feel like I have a lot of stuff to improve on," Mayfield said about his Saturday performance. "Decision making wise, this wasn't my best day, but it was a good experience. When I was able to get the ball in our receivers' hands, they made plays for me. Now, I just have to keep improving and finding ways to get them the ball."
If you forced me to handicap the quarterback race following the spring I would put them in the order of Mayfield, Thomas, Knight, and Hansen. I'm not so sure that I would bet on it staying that way though. We all remember the shock of Trevor Knight being named the starter over Blake Bell just two years ago this fall and I was there and saw the shock and wonder at Cody Thomas taking the first snap on Saturday. If recent quarterback competitions have taught us anything it's that we should expect the unexpected, and that anything can happen.