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Oklahoma Sooners Football: A Claim to the QB Crown

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In less than two seasons, Baker Mayfield is making a strong case that he’s the best quarterback in Oklahoma history.

Baylor v Oklahoma Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images

As good as you think Baker Mayfield is, he’s probably even better.

He started at Texas Tech. Then he sat out a year at Oklahoma. Before he took the field for his first career start for the Sooners, Baker Mayfield was already two years behind the pace in his pursuit to leave a mark on the program.

He didn't waste any time. In his debut season running point for OU's offense, Mayfield eradicated all doubt that he may not have been the right man for the job. He threw for exactly 3,700 yards, completing 68.1% of his passes. Those numbers were great, but his touchdown-to-interception ratio of 36:7 may have been his most impressive feat. Rounding out his statistical dominance, his quarterback rating came in at 173.3.

The redshirt sophomore put up numbers good enough to lead his squad to a Big 12 title and a spot in the College Football Playoffs, and he finished just short of an invite to the Heisman ceremonies. But as great as he was, those numbers couldn’t give him bragging rights for the best performance by an Oklahoma quarterback. Sam Bradford—OU's most recent Heisman winner—threw for 4,720 yards, 50 touchdowns, and only eight interceptions during his magical 2008 season. Bradford finished the year with a quarterback rating of 180.8, and there's a chance his numbers from that season will never be matched by another Sooner signal-caller.

With two games left to play this season (plus a bowl game), Mayfield hasn't stopped his tear, though. Through ten games, Mayfield has already thrown for 3,212 yards (completing 72% of his passes), and his 33 touchdowns are just three shy of his mark from a year ago. He's only thrown seven interceptions so far, and his quarterback rating of 195.2 actually obliterates Bradford's mark from 2008. In fact, his current rating would actually Russell Wilson's NCAA single-season record of 191.8. He's also two wins away from winning his second conference championship in as many years.

While we quietly wait to see if Samaje Perine can pass Billy Sims as the all-time leading rusher in OU history this year (unlikely after he missed three games this season and needs 481 yards in his remaining three games to get there), it may be time to pay some attention to Mayfield's climb up the ladder of Sooner greats as well. Even if he never matches Bradford's single season marks, he's making some noise in the Oklahoma history books.

Yards

Last year, Mayfield completed the 7th best season in school history in terms of passing yards. This year, he already sits at 9th all-time. When you put those together, here are the career leaders in school history:

  1. Landry Jones - 16,646
  2. Sam Bradford - 8,403
  3. Jason White - 7,922
  4. Josh Heupel - 7,456
  5. Baker Mayfield - 6,912

He's got no realistic shot to pass Landry Jones for the top spot, who played almost four complete seasons as OU's starting quarterback and owns the second, third, and fourth best individual seasons in school history. However, Mayfield found out this off-season that his eligibility will be extended for another season, and if he comes back for round three (as most people expect he will), he'll easily pass Bradford for the #2 spot provided he remains healthy.

Touchdown Passes

Mayfield's two seasons so far put him at #4 and #7, respectively, in terms of total passing touchdowns in a season. Given his immediate impact on the score board, here's how he sits on the career rankings for Sooner quarterbacks:

  1. Landry Jones - 123
  2. Sam Bradford - 88
  3. Jason White - 81
  4. Baker Mayfield - 69
  5. Josh Heupel - 53

While it's still going to be pretty much impossible to top Landry Jones' four-year output, Mayfield has already launched himself to fourth all-time in touchdown passes in less than two full seasons. Another full season would again knock off Sam Bradford to make Mayfield second all-time.

Completion Percentage

Here's an area in which Mayfield isn't disadvantaged by his lack of playing time. In fact, you could argue that Mayfield's year abroad in Lubbock actually gives him an advantage in this category because he worked out some of the kinks in his game as a freshman playing for the Red Raiders, leaving his OU record untarnished by early mistakes. However, Mayfield's 2015 season saw him have the second-best completion percentage of an Oklahoma quarterback in history. That season now ranks third, though, as Mayfield's 2016 campaign currently tops the list. No matter how much of an advantage he had by excluding freshman numbers, having the first and third best completion percentage in OU history is still incredible. Here are the career leaders:

  1. Baker Mayfield - 69.75%
  2. Sam Bradford - 67.64%
  3. Josh Heupel - 63.8%
  4. Landry Jones - 63.58%
  5. Jason White - 63.33%

Obviously this is a category in which Mayfield's rankings can actually fall just as easily as they could rise, but right now he's the best ever in this category at the University of Oklahoma, and that's no small feat considering the other names on that list.

Making the most of his throws

Landry Jones has an insurmountable lead in terms of total yards and touchdowns. Jones deserves all the credit in the world for stepping up as a freshman and playing very good football for four years at Oklahoma. He added Big 12 championships and bowl wins while he was here, and he's an all-time great. That being said, with Mayfield's completion percentage being so much higher, it's worth investigating how much bang for the buck the Sooners have received from their quarterbacks. So here's a view of the stats considering the number of throws:

Yards-per-attempt (taken only from the five leading career passers):

  1. Baker Mayfield - 10.00
  2. Sam Bradford - 9.41
  3. Jason White - 8.00
  4. Landry Jones - 7.63
  5. Josh Heupel - 7.27

Efficiency Ratings:

  1. Baker Mayfield - 182.68
  2. Sam Bradford - 175.62
  3. Eddie Crowder - 171.98 (1950-52)
  4. Claude Arnold - 160.13 (1948-50)
  5. Jason White - 153.74

**8. Landry Jones - 141.06

More than just passing yards

A quarterback's main job is to toss the football to other people, sure, but that's not all that a quarterback can do (ask Lamar Jackson). Mayfield has been electric as a play-maker both in and outside the pocket. If you don't believe me, check out this block against Oklahoma State last year that sprung a long touchdown run for Joe Mixon. Mayfield didn't exactly obliterate the defensive back, but it was a play not every quarterback bothers to make.

Mayfield also has a unique ability to make plays even when the pocket breaks down. Here, he faces a defender who comes into the pocket unblocked, and without time to really step into his throw, he manages to stay calm enough to drop a perfect pass to Sterling Shepard for a touchdown.

As good as Landry Jones was, he was often criticized for decision making when looks weren't there or things broke down. Bradford was solid in almost all situations, but during his great run he simply wasn't forced to make those kinds of plays often. Mayfield also has a unique knack for scrambling out of the pocket, slipping out of tackles, and buying himself more time to make a throw.

If you're thinking that it's pretty difficult to rank quarterbacks by their intangibles, I'll concede that point. What can be ranked, though, is rushing yards. Bradford could scramble but was never speedy. At the risk of seeming mean, I'll just say that this was Jones' 40-yard dash at the combine.

Mayfield, on the other hand, brings a real rushing threat.

Compared to Jones and Bradford, here's how Mayfield ranks in terms of rushing yards while at OU:

  1. Baker Mayfield - 536 yards, 11 touchdowns
  2. Sam Bradford - 36 yards, 5 touchdowns
  3. Landry Jones - (-375) yards, 3 touchdowns.

In this regard, Mayfield is a completely different player. Given their styles it almost feels unfair to compare the three in this regard, but it's something that's easily forgotten when you focus on passing stats.

When you put all these things together (and consider that Mayfield has another year of eligibility left), Mayfield may somehow be underrated as a quarterback. At the risk of sounding crazy, I'd assert that he's already Oklahoma's most dangerous quarterback ever. His career totals may never pass Jones, but his per-game stats and his unique rushing ability mean that the gunslinger from Austin who started his career in Lubbock could already be Oklahoma's best quarterback, and if he can follow this year with another great one, his case will only become stronger.