NORMAN, Okla. – It was the 2016 Oklahoma spring game, but you could already start counting the days down toward the 2017 spring game.
At least when it comes to quarterback. Baker Mayfield is obviously the guy for the Sooners this season. But when it comes to 2017, all bets are off.
The spring game, won 17-16 by the Red on Saturday in the annual Red-White scrimmage, showed there are no favorites to replace Mayfield among Kyler Murray and Austin Kendall. It also showed something else, however.
OU’s quarterback future? It’s in really good hands. Whether it was the athletic ability of Murray or the accuracy and poise of Kendall, OU fans have to be feeling really good as it pertains to that position going forward.
“Honestly, they’re both really good quarterbacks,” center Jonathan Alvarez said. “They have the same arm, same precision, everything. I think it’s going to be really interesting next year to see how that turns out.”
The numbers indicate Murray had the edge, but there was nothing that separated the two based on how they handled being the leader in the huddle.
Murray was officially 6 of 10 passing for 136 yards and two touchdowns, while Kendall was 8 of 17 for 52 yards. The one thing noticeably absent? No interceptions. Not from Mayfield, not from Kendall and not from Murray as the OU quarterbacks played a clean game.
“Definitely had fun,” Murray said. “Coming here, I love it. I love the new move. I can’t put into words how much it means for them to give me the opportunity to come here and play for them.”
Of course when it comes to Murray, everybody will have to wait at least another year. Following transferring from Texas A&M, Murray won’t be eligible for the Sooners until the 2017 season.
The onus is on Kendall to be the backup for Mayfield. With Trevor Knight now with Texas A&M and Cody Thomas focusing on baseball, someone who could be getting ready for Prom instead will be a backup quarterback for a team that reached the college football playoff last season.
“Better and better,” said offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley about Kendall’s comfort level. “He’s pretty smart about the chances he takes. It was good to see that look in his eye in that huddle today in front of a lot of people. You never know how they’re going to react the first time so today was a good step for him.”
Throughout the recruiting process, Kendall rarely showed any emotion. Laid back might be an understatement to describe Kendall.
But even for someone as calm as Kendall, taking those first snaps in front of 42,436 fans was still quite the moment for the true freshman.
“First drive I was nervous but once I started to get a couple throws down … I was gonna pull it on one of those runs, but ARoss (Alex Ross) told me he wanted the ball, so I said, ‘OK, you have it.’” Kendall said. “The second one I had to pull it because he was about to crash and from there, my nerves went away.”
OU head coach Bob Stoops elected to have a simulated scrimmage, meaning no tackling when it came to the starters. Quarterbacks don’t get hit anyway at the spring game, but his mission was accomplished reporting no injuries from the event.
That includes Mayfield and that includes Kendall. OU is obviously going to need Kendall eventually in the 2016 season. It’s just the spring, but the early returns are he’s going to be ready and up for the task.
“Our quarterback room is really great,” Kendall said. “We help each other out each and every day and all the coaches help me out every day as well. It’s been a big opportunity for me.”