NORMAN — As Texas Tech comes to town for a prime time Saturday night game against No. 10-ranked Oklahoma, let’s revisit where the Sooners might be without the Red Raiders’ many gifts.
It’s a what-if game of conjecture and speculation, but those can be fun to unleash on one’s imagination.
If Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury gives Baker Mayfield a scholarship after a pretty great 2013 freshman season, this game would look a whole lot different.
Tech’s Nic Shimonek probably isn’t putting up huge numbers for the Red Raiders. He might not even be in Lubbock. It’s also possible that Shimonek’s predecessor, Patrick Mahomes, wouldn’t have honored his April 2013 verbal commitment to Tech if Mayfield had hung onto the starting job and received that scholarship after the 2013 season. Mahomes became a first-round NFL draft pick last spring. Without his rapid development in Lubbock, Mahomes might be a college senior right now instead of an NFL rookie. Conversely, if Mayfield hadn’t left Tech and had to redshirt the 2014 season, he most likely wouldn’t even be playing college football this season and might be earning an NFL check.
And what of the Sooners? If Mayfield would have simply accepted that scholarship offer from Florida Atlantic, this OU team would have a decidedly different vibe.
Trevor Knight probably would have quarterbacked the previous two seasons, and who knows how that would have ended up? This season, with Knight having stayed in Norman, maybe Kyler Murray leaves Texas A&M, or maybe he stays, or maybe he goes somewhere else. With no Mayfield and no Murray, maybe 2014 freshman Justice Hansen remains at OU — he’s killing it at Arkansas State this year, ranking 26th nationally with 1,862 passing yards and a 21-6 TD-INT ratio — or maybe 2013 freshman Cody Thomas develops and shuns pro baseball, or maybe 2016 freshman Austin Kendall has solidified the job by now, or maybe the OU staff goes after a QB for the 2015 class and someone else entirely is leading the Sooners right now.
For his part, Mayfield this week sounded thankful for his brief stopover in Lubbock.
“The journey has been incredible,” Mayfield said. “Starting out there and only being there for 5 ½ months, it wasn’t too long. But at the same time, it’s put me in the position where I’m at today. I learned a lot throughout that process not necessarily just being there but post-leaving.
“I’m obviously thankful to coach Kingsbury and that staff for giving me a chance to walk-on there and kickstart my college career. Looking back on it, I don’t think I would be where I’m at right now if not for them giving me a chance.”
It’s even more impossible to project what the Sooners would look like right now if OU coach Lincoln Riley also hadn’t chosen to start his college football career as a walk-on quarterback at Texas Tech.
If Riley had learned his craft under someone other than Mike Leach, he probably wouldn’t be in Norman right now. If Riley had chosen to play at a small college, for instance, he’s on an entirely different career path and likely is working somewhere else in 2017. If that’s the case, maybe Bob Stoops is still coaching the Sooners. Or, without Stoops having hired Riley as offensive coordinator in 2015 to help resurrect the increasingly flagging program, maybe Stoops retires earlier and someone else is coaching the Sooners.
“I can remember when Bob hired Mike to come here (for the 1999 season),” Riley said. “I certainly have more memories of when Mike went to (Texas) Tech. I was still, probably, a freshman or sophomore in high school at that time. I remember picking it up through there.
“One of the biggest reasons I wanted to go to Texas Tech was that I was kind of fascinated by what Mike and all those guys were doing there with, a lot of times, lesser athletes. It was something that always interested me. It was a big part of why I decided to go there.”
The world we know is built cause-and-effect relationships, an endless chain of butterfly effects, and college football is a case study for how these what-ifs shape our daily environments.
Columnist John E. Hoover is co-host of “Further Review with Hoover & Rew” and can be heard every weekday on The Franchise in Tulsa from noon to 3 p.m. with co-host Lauren Rew. In Oklahoma City, catch him Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings at 10:25 and every Friday afternoon at 4:05. Listen at fm107.7 in OKC, fm107.9/am1270 in Tulsa, on The Franchise app, or click the “Listen” tab on The Franchise home page. Visit his personal page at johnehoover.com.