The realization is definitely hitting in. If something happens to Baker Mayfield for Oklahoma at quarterback, the Sooners are going to hand the reins over to true freshman Austin Kendall.
Yes, the very same Kendall who was in high school three months ago. If there’s one person who has zero doubts about Kendall outside of the OU program, it’s Waxhaw (N.C.) Cuthbertson coach David Johnson.
Kendall put up ridiculous numbers as a junior but the production wasn’t quite as huge as a senior. Johnson said don’t read anything into it.
“He had a deep bruise with his back that really bothered him in the middle of the season,” Johnson said. “We came out of the gates at 3-1, and he was fine. Then we lost four in a row, and after Austin came back, we won four in a row before losing to the eventual state champion.”
Johnson only coached Kendall the last two years, but the connection there has certainly been forged. And with media not allowed to talk to Kendall just yet, Johnson is able to give some good insight into what Kendall is thinking right about now.
“He actually called me after that first 5 a.m. workout,” Johnson said. “I was like welcome to college, buddy. But the thing about Austin is he’s never going to back down or shy away. We talk almost weekly, and he seems to be truly happy and enjoying the experience.”
Johnson said Kendall’s ability to extend plays is a huge reason as to how he separates himself from the rest of the pack.
He said if you watch Kendall run the 40-yard dash, you’re not going to be impressed. But if you watch him maneuver around the pocket, then you’re going to see what you want to see.
Johnson hasn’t had the chance to visit OU just yet, and he won’t the chance to do so for the spring game as he was hoping. He remembers when Kendall was going through the recruiting and when it all changed.
“I was actually with him on that last visit to Tennessee,” Johnson said. “It was there when I had an inkling that he might be thinking about something else.
“Once he announced, Lincoln Riley contacted me almost immediately. Of course I’ve had a good relationship with Coach Riley since his days at ECU.
“He went on that first visit to Norman, and you took a look at his face and you had a pretty good idea about exactly what was about to happen.”
Johnson said how it only took one conversation following the transfer of former five-star quarterback Kyler Murray to OU to shut down rumors. Kendall was solid with the Sooners, and it didn’t come as a shock to Johnson.
“Austin is such a relationship kid,” Johnson said. “He’s not afraid of the competition. He’s as intense as they come. It’s about relationships, and he has some great ones at OU so he wasn’t going anywhere.”