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Oklahoma Sooners Football Hot Links: Baker Mayfield leads Cleveland to the playoffs for first time since 2002

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Also, a quick update on who is and isn’t declaring for the 2021 NFL Draft.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Monday, friends and fans!

Baker Mayfield just has a certain magic to him. The former two-time walk-on won a Heisman Trophy with the Oklahoma Sooners in 2017, became a first overall draft pick in 2018, and as of this Sunday, he successfully ended the league’s longest postseason drought by leading the Cleveland Browns into the NFL Playoffs with a 24-22 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Browns have not participated in a postseason game since 2002, but thanks in large part to Mayfield’s play this season, Cleveland is finally back in Super Bowl contention. In the 2020 regular season, the third-year pro threw for 3,563 yards, 26 touchdowns and just eight interceptions on a 62.8 completion percentage.

Next up, Baker will lead his Browns against the Steelers once again to cap off the NFL’s Wild Card Weekend. These two AFC North Division rivals have split their first two meetings this season, with the home team coming away victorious each time. For the third round of this contentious series, Cleveland will travel to Pittsburgh on Sunday, Jan. 10. Kickoff is set for 7:15 CT on NBC.

Now onto this week’s Monday edition of Hot Links! A key offensive lineman announces his return to Oklahoma, Sterling Shepard goes off for NY, the Hoosier State will host March Madness this year and more!

OU Links

  • Before the 2020 season kicked-off, RB Kennedy Brooks and DL Jalen Redmond announced their decisions to opt-out. A little over a month into the campaign, OT Stacey Wilkins also chose to opt-out of the remainder of the year. Going forward, OU fans can now expect all three players to return to the team this fall.
  • On Saturday, redshirt junior OT Adrian Ealy announced his decision to declare for the 2021 NFL Draft. The Gonzales, Louisiana native started 22 games for Oklahoma over the last two seasons. After his announcement, Ealy also accepted an invite to this year’s Reese’s Senior Bowl — one of football’s leading annual pre-draft events. He’s the fourth Sooner to declare for the draft, joining Creed Humphrey, Tre Brown and Tre Norwood. Additionally, we still await the public decisions of Ronnie Perkins and Rhamondre Stevenson. Congratulations, Adrian!
  • Redshirt junior OG Marquis Hayes also recently made an official announcement on his playing future, stating that he intends to return to Oklahoma for one more season of college ball. This is a major win for state of the offensive line in 2021.
  • For those who were wondering about DT Perrion Winfrey’s plans in 2021, it appears that he’s also staying at OU for one more crack at college football glory. If he picks up where he left off this fall, look out.
  • Adrian Peterson is an actual machine. That’s the only explanation I can come up with to make sense of how he’s still able to break off a 38-yard run in the NFL (his longest since 2018) at 35-years-old. On the day, AD finished with 63 rushing yards and one touchdown against the Minnesota Vikings — his first team as a pro — in a 37-35 losing effort from the Detroit Lions.
  • Sterling Shepard erupted for 136 total yards and a pair of scores (one receiving, one rushing) on just 10 touches as he helped lead his New York Giants to a 23-19 win over NFC East Division rival Dallas Cowboys.
  • Jalen Hurts once again used his legs to hurt an NFL defense, this time against the Washington Football Team. The former Alabama-turned-Oklahoma dual threat punched in two TDs, but ultimately it was not enough as WFT prevailed, 20-14.
  • Los Angeles Chargers rookie LB Kenneth Murray did not disappoint in his first season as a pro. The first-round draft pick set a new franchise record for recording the most total tackles in a single campaign with 106. Way to go, K9. Boomer!
  • Going into his redshirt sophomore season, Spencer Rattler is apparently the early favorite to win the 2021 Heisman Trophy according to the oddsmakers at MyBookie Sportsbook.
  • The OU men’s basketball team (6-2) checks in at No. 49 in the NCAA’s first NET rankings of the 2020-21 season.
  • Malcolm Kelly’s iconic freestyle from 2006 is truly the gift that keeps on giving. After Oklahoma dismantled the Florida Gators in the Cotton Bowl last week, the team rapped the lyrics in unison, creating one of the cooler moments of the 2020 season. Now, thanks to the good folks at BreakingT, you can join in on all the fun by purchasing a t-shirt or hoodie with this ever-so appropriate design inspired by the words of the former standout OU receiver.

Around the Sports World

  • The entire 2021 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament will officially be held in the state of Indiana, with most games that make up the 64-team bracket being played in Indianapolis.
  • On Sunday evening, Texas Longhorns QB Sam Ehlinger officially called it a career by announcing his decision to forgo his final season of collegiate eligibility and declare for the 2021 NFL Draft.
  • The Marshall University president has decided not to extend head coach Doc Holliday’s contract, effectively ending his 11-year run with the Thunder Herd. In that span, MU went a respectable 85-54.

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