Oklahoma to seek Mayfield replacement in spring practice
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — Oklahoma will start figuring out who will replace Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Baker Mayfield when spring practice opens Saturday.
Mayfield left as one of the most productive quarterbacks in college football history. He led the Sooners to the College Football Playoff twice and is the only quarterback to finish in the top four of the Heisman race three times.
The top two contenders will be last year’s backup, redshirt junior Kyler Murray, and redshirt sophomore Austin Kendall. Redshirt sophomore Tanner Schafer will get a look, too.
Coach Lincoln Riley is looking for a variety of things from his new signal caller as he heads into his first season at the school as an assistant or head coach without Mayfield. One of his best opportunities to draw conclusions will come at the spring game on April 14.
“I think there’s always, of course, an element of performance,” Riley said. “The guy’s got to be able to perform and do his job, and then I think there’s the element of intangibles, the leadership, the toughness, the mentality that he brings to your group. Do the other 10 guys play better when he’s in there? We’ve told them all, look, it’s not going to be a sprint, it’s going to be a marathon.”
Murray completed 18 of 21 passes for 359 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions last season. The 5-foot-10, 190-pound speedster also ran 14 times for 142 yards, including a 66-yarder scamper against West Virginia that ended just short of the end zone. He has an edge in experience — he started three games for Texas A&M in 2015 and started against West Virginia last season because Mayfield was being disciplined.
Murray also plays outfield for the baseball team. Riley said that won’t affect the competition.
“After going through this last year, we have a better sense of the schedule, what we can do to help Kyler, scheduling out, even just the times that he can sleep, his nutrition, just trying to balance it where he’s not missing anything in football and he’s not going to miss any of the spring practices,” Riley said.
The situation will make for some long days for Murray.
“He’s going to have several (baseball) games where he’s going to practice and then after, we’ll get him done with practice maybe 15 minutes early, get his reps in and then go over to the baseball field,” Riley said. “Actually, Saturday, he’ll practice that morning and then he’ll have a doubleheader, so he’ll sleep good Saturday night.”
Kendall was a backup two seasons ago, when he passed for 143 yards and two touchdowns. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound pro style quarterback redshirted last season and was named one of the team’s offensive scout team players of the year.
“Austin’s just motivated to come compete,” Riley said. “I actually met with him the other day and I said, ’Hey, this is why you came all the way from North Carolina to come to Oklahoma was a chance to be the guy here. This is a great opportunity.”
Though conventional wisdom would say Murray has the edge, Riley disagreed.
“There’s zero assumptions in our building,” Riley said.