In the fall of 2015, Austin Kendall was an Oklahoma Sooners commit who was set to enroll early for the spring of 2016. But by Christmas Eve, former five-star QB and Texas A&M Kyler Murray announced his decision to transfer to OU, and Kendall’s future began to look a bit different than he had originally envisioned.
At Monday’s press conference, Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley announced that Murray will be Oklahoma’s second-string quarterback in 2017. He then indicated that Kendall, who backed up Baker Mayfield as a true freshman in 2016, will redshirt barring injury. Kendall will certainly be given a chance to battle Murray for the starting job in 2017, but Monday’s announcement is a pretty good indication of where that race stands. With multiple years of eligibility remaining, will the former four-star QB out of Waxhaw, N.C., choose to stick it out or move on to someplace else? Here are some things to consider:
- Kendall is currently a true sophomore, while Murray is a redshirt sophomore after sitting out last season due to transfer rules. If both players stick around for the remainder of their eligibility and the pecking order stays as is, there’s a very good chance that Kendall would be the the starter as a senior in 2020. Following the dismissal of Chris Robison, there would be a one-year eligibility gap between Kendall and the next scholarship QB (likely Tanner Mordecai), so that would certainly help his cause a little bit. Would Kendall be willing to wait that long for something that isn’t a certainty? Most guys wouldn’t, but you never know.
- If Kendall were to transfer to an FBS school, it would be prudent for him to do so this season. If he redshirts at Oklahoma in 2017 and chooses to transfer next season, he’ll lose a year of eligibility during the year in which he sits out and would have two years remaining. If he leaves this fall, the year he sits out at another school would function as the redshirt year, and he’ll have three seasons of remaining eligibility. Junior college football has already begun, so the JUCO option is pretty much off the table at this point.
- Transferring to a school where there’s perceivably less competition can backfire. A player may find that someone else who has been around the program for a longer period of time knows the offense better and has earned the trust of his coaches, or maybe a young signal caller steps up eclipses him in the pecking order. It’s very likely that Kendall could transfer somewhere and be in a similar position to the one he’s in right now.
- Kyler Murray, the heir apparent to Baker Mayfield’s throne, is a very fast and athletic quarterback who can scramble around and beat you with his legs. One issue, however, is that Murray is in the 5’9”-5’10” range and weighs in at about 190 pounds. When a quarterback like him takes hits from big, fast defensive players who are often trying to make a statement, his size and ability to absorb contact become a real concern. I’m certainly not saying that Kyler Murray is destined to miss considerable time with an injury in the future. I hope he has two Heisman-worthy seasons as a starting quarterback for the Sooners, and I think we all know he’s capable of it. But you have to prepare for the worst, and having a guy like Austin Kendall around would be essential. If he were to leave before the start of the 2018 season, OU would likely only have one other scholarship QB behind Murray (Mordecai). I know they seem to like the walk-on Tanner Schafer, but that situation would be less than ideal. Kendall has to know that there’s a very good chance that he would be called upon to lead the team (maybe for a long time) in the event of an injury.
- Austin Kendall could theoretically win the job next fall, and he’s the type of guy who may even like his chances. It’s definitely a long shot considering how special Kyler Murray is, but Kendall seems like a pretty confident (maybe even cocky) guy who welcomes a challenge.
The two most likely scenarios at this point, in my opinion, are:
- Kendall transfers from Oklahoma within the next couple of weeks and is eligible to play as a redshirt sophomore in 2018.
- Kendall redshirts at OU, competes for the starting job in 2018, loses the job to Murray and waits it out. He would then compete for the job against some younger scholarship guys in 2020. If he were to win, he’d spend his senior season as the starting quarterback of the Oklahoma Sooners. If he loses and knows his fate early enough, he’ll likely be eligible for a grad transfer and would be the starter for a year someplace else.
It’s obviously all up to Austin. I’d love for him to stick around in Norman, but if he sees a better opportunity elsewhere, I certainly won’t knock the guy for it.