NORMAN, Okla. -- Surrounded by cameras and microphones with his back pressed against the wall, Austin Kendall answered questions with a calm, confident demeanor that belies the mental image that comes to mind when thinking of a true freshman.
It was a short glimpse of the true freshman quarterback that makes it easy to see why Oklahoma feels better about its backup quarterback situation behind Baker Mayfield than it did when the spring began.
"Austin, that dude right there is a player ... he came in ready to work," safety Steven Parker said. "He's a workhorse. He's more mature than most freshmen I've seen."
Kendall, an early enrollee who is in his first college semester, capped off his first spring in Norman, Oklahoma, with mediocre numbers during a spring game marred by windy conditions, finishing 8-of-17 for 52 yards. But he displayed poise, accuracy (he had multiple dropped passes), and surprising mobility to help reaffirm the growing confidence the coaching staff has in the ESPN300 signee.
"He's been more than we could have expected," coach Bob Stoops said. "He's got a lot of poise, maturity to him and a lot of confidence. He did really well, like he did most of the spring."
The quarterback position behind Baker Mayfield was a major question mark heading into the spring, but Kendall's performance made offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley's comfort level with him behind center skyrocket during spring drills.
"It's pretty high right now," Riley said. "He just gets better and better. He's pretty smart about the chances to take. It was good to see the look in his eye today when we were in front of a lot of people. Here's a kid who should be getting ready for prom, and he's playing in front of a great crowd and he handled it great."
The departure of Trevor Knight, who was named Texas A&M's starter on Monday, and Cody Thomas, who elected to focus on baseball, left Oklahoma with a hole behind Mayfield, one of the favorites for the Heisman Trophy heading into 2016. Kendall went a long way to silencing those concerns with a spring that exceeded expectations in a lot of ways.
"Once I got here and in the system, I felt comfortable," Kendall said. "Now, with practices, scrimmages and the spring game, I feel comfortable. If my name gets called I'm confident I can get the job done. Coach Riley says always prepare to be in there every down and I'm going to be next to him [on the sideline] every single play and be ready if anything happens."
The Sooners had confidence in the No. 182 player in the 2016 ESPN300 heading into the spring. After all, they signed him for a reason. Yet, seeing him actually do it on the field should keep Oklahoma from pushing the panic button during the summer because of a concern about the No. 2 quarterback.
"You never really know how they're going to react that first time [on the field], and so today was just a great step for him," Riley said. "He's been very, very steady all spring. He missed a few things today ... but he's a little better than I thought physically. He's shown the ability to get out of things a little bit more. We felt like coming in, he was a really good thrower and he's shown nothing but that."
Despite his fearless style and love for mixing it up with defenders, Mayfield started every game for the Sooners in 2015 (although he missed the second half against TCU after a concussion). Only West Virginia's Skyler Howard and Texas Tech's Patrick Mahomes joined Mayfield as Big 12 quarterbacks to start every game a year ago, a sign that the backup quarterback position is a critical piece to a Big 12 title run. Thus, finding a quality backup that would ensure the Sooners didn't have to completely revamp the offense without Mayfield was a key to the spring, and Kendall passed the test with flying colors.
"We've been really happy with how just mentally he's progressed," Riley said. "He's really bought in."