NORMAN — No position on the Oklahoma roster is as solidified entering 2017 as quarterback, where redshirt senior Baker Mayfield returns for his final season in Norman. Coming off back-to-back top-four finishes in Heisman Trophy voting, Mayfield is primed for another special season to close out his OU career.
A year ago, the Austin, Texas, product passed for 3,965 yards and 40 touchdowns against just eight interceptions while leading the nation and setting an Oklahoma school record with a 70.9 completion percentage. He set the FBS single-season record for passing efficiency with a mark of 196.4 (the previous record was 191.8 and the next highest Power 5 figure in 2016 was 167.5) while averaging 305.0 yards per game and leading the nation in yards per pass attempt (11.08).
Mayfield ranked fourth nationally in points responsible for (21.5 per game), sixth in passing touchdowns and ninth in passing yards. He also finished the year ranked fourth in the country with 22 completions of at least 40 yards, and his favorite target, Biletnikoff Award winner Dede Westbrook, racked up 12 touchdowns of at least 40 yards (the most in one season by an FBS player since at least 1996). Mayfield also added 177 yards and six scores on the ground.
Mayfield's record-setting efforts earned plenty of national attention. He finished third in Heisman voting and, along with Westbrook, was invited to New York as one of five finalists. He was also one of three finalists for the Maxwell Award (college player of the year) and the Davey O'Brien Award (quarterback of the year). He repeated as winner of the Burlsworth Trophy, given annually to the nation's best player who started his career as a walk-on, was named first-team All-Big 12 by the league's coaches and the AP, and was voted a second-team All-American by the FWAA and a third-team pick by the AP.
With two seasons under his belt, Mayfield has already made his mark in the Oklahoma records book. He has accounted for 89 touchdowns as a Sooner, the most by a player in the first 26 games of an OU career, and his 76 touchdown passes are the second most by a Sooner at the same stage (Sam Bradford had 82). He leads all OU quarterbacks in career completion percentage (.695; Bradford ranks second at .676) and career passing efficiency rating (184.28; Bradford ranks second at 175.62). Mayfield is also chasing other records, ranking third in OU history in total offense (8,247 yards), fourth in passing yards (7,665), TD passes (76) and 300-yard passing games (12), fifth in completions (523) and seventh in attempts (753).
The intrigue at the quarterback position comes in regard to who will serve as Mayfield's primary backup. The two frontrunners for that post are Austin Kendall and Kyler Murray.
Kendall handled backup duties a year ago as a true freshman. He passed for 143 yards and 16 completions in 2016, which were the most ever by a true freshman in the 18-year tenure of Bob Stoops, while Kendall's two passing touchdowns tied with Paul Thompson (2002) for the most by a true frosh under Stoops.
Murray, who hails from Allen, Texas, transferred from Texas A&M following the 2015 season and was ineligible to play in 2016 due to NCAA transfer rules. Murray drew high praise from teammates and coaches alike last year while working on OU's scout team. As a true freshman, he played in eight total games for the Aggies and made three starts. He rushed for 335 yards and piled up 1,021 yards of total offense. A consensus five-star recruit and the Gatorade National Football Player of the Year as a high school senior, Murray was highly recruited. He was touted by ESPN as the top dual-threat quarterback in his class and was listed as the 13th-best recruit overall. In OU's 2017 spring game, Murray showcased his skills by going 9-of-13 for 144 yards and a touchdown.
Also on the 2017 roster providing depth are walk-ons Reece Clark, Connor McGinnis and Tanner Schafer.