Two different campaigns will begin for Baker Mayfield and Greg Ward Jr. when they lead their respective teams into NRG Stadium on September 3rd. While a playoff berth is the ultimate goal for both teams (and quarterbacks), Mayfield and Ward Jr. have also been placed on many fans and experts preseason Heisman watch list’s. While there are many other candidates and its way too early to really pinpoint the finalists for the prestigious award, here are five reasons Baker Mayfield could find himself as a finalist come December:
1. Experience in the Spotlight
Mayfield is entering his second year with Oklahoma and though he had an outstanding year last year, his grasp of the offense and his leadership on the field can only improve coming into this season. Along with the experience he will have with his fellow teammates, Mayfield will also have experience of being in the spotlight. Ever since he busted onto the scene as a walk on at Texas Tech in 2013, he has been highly respected as one of the nations best quarterbacks. Last year he was on the Heisman watch throughout the season and finished fourth in the voting. Mayfield was also finalist for the Davey O’Brian award last season, and was named a First-Team All American, Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year and received the Sporting News National Player of the Year.
2. Arm Talent
Many of today’s quarterbacks are asked to be a duel threat and while Mayfield could be considered one, his strength lies in his arm. After finishing the season in the top 5 in passing rating, yards per attempt and completion percentage and being ranked #6 in passing touchdowns, Mayfield made it clear that he had exceptional throwing ability. His rushing stats were respectable, running the ball 141 times for 405 yards which was good enough for a 2.9 average, but nothing spectacular compared to those quarterbacks that are considered true duel threats. After his 3,700 yard and 36 touchdown season, Mayfield has a chance to solidify himself as an elite passer with a good follow up campaign.
3. Talent Around Him
The Sooners have no lack of talent coming into this season and that will only help Mayfield’s cause. Though he lost star Sterling Shepherd on the outside, Samaje Perine will be back in the backfield to help take some pressure off Mayfield. Second most targeted receiver from last year Dede Westbrook will be returning and Penn State transfer Geno Lewis will also look to make an impact at the wide receiver position. The Sooners main cause for concern will be on the offensive line where four out of five starters are underclassmen. Mayfield will also have plenty of help on the defensive side of the ball. The Sooners defense is coming back with experience and talent and will look to put the ball in Mayfield’s hands as many times as possible.
While the Sooners won’t have an easy schedule going through the Big 12, it will definitely present Mayfield with highlight moments. Whether its at the Cotton Bowl against Texas, in Fort Worth against TCU or at home against in state rival Oklahoma State, these challenges will present Mayfield to shine in the national spotlight. He will also have opportunities to pad his stats against some of the weaker teams in the conference. Along with Houston, Oklahoma will have a huge challenge in Ohio State on September 17th. If Mayfield and the Sooners can make it through the tough non-conference schedule, the Big 12 and capture another conference title, he will put himself in a great position to make the trip to New York come December.
Mayfield will have to really step up as a leader in this upcoming season. With the departure of Shepherd and and the shake up of his offensive line, Mayfield will have to be in command of all parts of his offense from the first snap of the season. He has shown that he can lead on the field in the past, but this Lake Travis product cannot hope to have the success that he wants without taking on a larger part in the leadership role both on and off the field.
Baker Mayfield walked on at Texas Tech, he walked on at Oklahoma and come December he may be walking on to the stage in New York to collect his Heisman Trophy.