- Jake Trotter, ESPN Staff Writer
- 0 Shares
Under Bob Stoops, Oklahoma has never had a quarterback competition so wide open.
Trevor Knight, Baker Mayfield and Cody Thomas all own Big 12 starting experience. Redshirt freshman Justice Hansen is a former ESPN 300 signee. And all four will be operating with some degree of a clean slate due to the arrival of new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Lincoln Riley, who has been tasked with reviving the air raid in Norman.
So, who will emerge from this competition?
We’re putting that question to you in our weekly Big 12 poll.
In one tumultuous season, Knight went from being Oklahoma’s long-term answer at quarterback to one with a murky future, at best. He led the Big 12 with three pick-six interceptions, and tossed another pick that was returned to the 1-yard line, igniting Baylor’s 48-14 rout of the Sooners in Norman. In that game, Knight also suffered a transient quadriplegia injury, which leads to pain and numbness. After sitting out Oklahoma’s final three regular-season games, Knight returned for the Russell Athletic Bowl. But he looked completely out of sorts, and in the worst performance of his career, threw three picks, as Clemson destroyed the Sooners, 40-6. A winter to recover from the injury scare and a change of position coach from Josh Heupel to Riley could revive Knight’s career this spring. But to have any chance of remaining a starter, Knight will have to display the confidence and poise he showed late in the 2013 season.
Riley, however, is sure to give a strong look to Thomas and Mayfield, as well.
Underscoring his belief that he can win the job, Thomas gave up baseball -- he would have been a starting outfielder for the Sooners -- this spring to focus solely on football. While Knight was injured, Thomas filled in as the starter to mixed results. Thomas was a natural operating the zone-read, which sparked Oklahoma’s ground game. But he also struggled throwing the ball, and finished the season with a completion rate of just 45.5 percent, which ranked lasted among Big 12 quarterbacks that made at least one start. Thomas will have to be much more accurate to have any chance of winning a job in Riley’s system -- though it’s also possible that Riley’s system might boost Thomas’ completion percentage.
Yet while Knight and Thomas started last year, the quarterback that watched from the sidelines could actually be the favorite in the competition.
Mayfield won Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year honors in 2013 before transferring in from Texas Tech. While Knight struggled in Oklahoma’s spring game last year, Mayfield shined, completing all 10 of his pass attempts. Still, Mayfield has much to prove. Though he won the Red Raiders’ starting job as a walk-on true freshman, he was also up-and-down at times. That said, coming from Tech -- the same place Riley developed his offensive chops -- Mayfield has the most experience in the system Riley wants to install.
Though Mayfield, Thomas and Knight could quickly turn this into a three-way competition because of their experience, Hansen shouldn’t be completely discounted. He was, after all, the No. 9 QB recruit in the country in 2014, and given Oklahoma’s struggles at the position last season, Riley would be prudent to cast a wide net in his evaluation. With a blistering start to the spring, perhaps Hansen can wedge his way into the discussion.
Either way, this will be fascinating quarterback derby to follow.
Let us who you think will win it by casting a vote in the poll.