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2015 Oklahoma Sooners Football Preview | The Great Quarterback Derby

David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

As painful as they may have been, changes were necessary for Oklahoma's offense following the 2015 season. While some deemed the parting of ways with offensive coordinators Josh Heupel and Jay Norvell as being the scapegoats while others felt the change was overdue. Regardless of the related emotions the change has come and the most critical position to be affected by it is the quarterback.

2014 Passing Stats

Name Yards Completion % TD INT
Trevor Knight 2,300 53% 14 12
Cody Thomas 342 45.5% 2 4

Typically known as a position of strength for Oklahoma, the quarterback was anything but in 2014. The Sooner signal callers had a combined 51% accuracy rate with 16 touchdowns to 16 interceptions. Those are staggering numbers for a program that has produced two Heisman quarterbacks in the last decade and a half. Those are also numbers that cannot be duplicated in 2015 in OU wants back into the conference championship mix. Thus, the reason that there is an open competition for the starting job as camp begins this week.

On The Outside Looking In

Sophomore Cody Thomas was forced into action when Trevor Knight went down with a neck injury against Baylor. The then redshirt freshman started Oklahoma's final three games of the season, and while he guided the Sooners to a 2-1 record during that stretch it was clear that the coaching staff needed to run the ball more than throw it to have a shot at winning. Keep in mind that Thomas also inherited a depleted and injured receiving corps to work with as well.

Thomas has the best quarterback body of the three guys in the competition but Bob Stoops mentioned the fact that he was a step behind juniors Trevor Knight and Baker Mayfield during last month's Big 12 Media Days.

2015 Oklahoma Sooners Quarterbacks

#

Name

Position

HT

WT

Year

Home

4

Reece Clark

QB

6-4

205

Fr.

Cypress, Texas (Cypress Woods HS)

9

Trevor Knight

QB

6-1

206

RJr.

San Antonio, Texas (Reagan HS)

6

Baker Mayfield

QB

6-2

214

Jr.

Austin, Texas (Texas Tech)

12

Connor McGinnis

QB

6-4

190

Fr.

Oklahoma City, Okla. (Heritage Hall HS)

14

Cody Thomas

QB

6-4

211

RSo.

Colleyville, Texas (Heritage)

The Underdog

It's hard to believe that the same guy that destroyed Alabama's defense in the Sugar Bowl would be fighting to stay on the field just two seasons later but that's exactly the position that Knight finds himself in. Even before his injury Knight was struggling last season. In 10 starts he threw nine picks and some of them were disastrously returned for touchdowns at crucial moments of the game.

The upside here is that Knight's shortcomings are mostly mental mistakes rather than physical ones.  Lincoln Riley's new offense that simplifies the relationship between the quarterbacks and receivers could be just the thing that the one-time hero needs to revive his career.  Unfortunately he's up against a guy who has already thrived in this type of offense.

The Favorite

Texas Tech transfer Baker Mayfield is not just the fan favorite, he's also very much the favorite on the field to win the job. In 2013, he was the the Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year where he completed 64% of his passes for 2,315 yards, 12 touchdowns and 9 picks in just eight games.

Where Knight may be the most experienced quarterback in an Oklahoma uniform, Mayfield is the most experienced quarterback in the type of system that Lincoln Riley is bringing to Norman. That's a huge advantage for the guy who is already popular with his teammates as well as among the fans.

The Intangibles

Turnovers

Turnovers killed Oklahoma's offense in 2014 and Bob Stoops hates turnovers more than anything in the world. This quarterback race is going to be settled by the guy who turns the ball over the least...while still showing the ability to make plays. Because of this factor alone you still have to consider all three players as candidates for the position with the previously noted advantages and disadvantages in mind.

Receivers

Oklahoma's receiving corps was in sharp decline in 2014 and that fact became even more evident when Sterling Shepard went down. I'm a firm believer that receivers can either make a good quarterback look great or a great quarterback look below average. Don't downplay the role that a new crop of receivers is going to play in this race. As the quarterbacks develop a relationship where they trust and know what their guys can do downfield it will change the way they play the game.

The Projection

Don't let the fact that Stoops took Knight to Dallas for the Media Days fool you. For all practical purposes Knight is still QB1 at OU until an official announcement is made that says otherwise. Look for that announcement to come in about four weeks.

2015 Oklahoma Sooners Projected Quarterback Depth Chart

QB1 Baker Mayfield Junior
QB2 Trevor Knight Junior
QB3 Cody Thomas Sophomore