In this week's Take Two, we debate which Big 12 team, as of this spring, has the best quarterback situation:
Take 1: Max Olson -- Texas Tech
Look, I fully understand how wrong this might look. The easy answer is supposed to be Baylor, and I get that. I witnessed what Seth Russell did to West Virginia’s defense, one week before his season-ending injury. I know how great he can be. I also know Jarrett Stidham is wildly talented and probably the best No. 2 quarterback in the conference.
But it’s also fair to be a little nervous about their situation. Russell recently had a setback, a strained pec that sidelined him for five practices. I have faith Russell will get back to 100 percent this fall. Stidham is healthy and ready to lead, but he does still only have three games of meaningful (non-blowout) experience. Baylor's No. 3 guy this season will be a true freshman.
So forgive me for being overly cautious here, but I’ll take the sure thing that is Patrick Mahomes. This is a quarterback who’s thrown for 6,200 yards and he’s only 20 games into his career. Mahomes’ best football, especially in big games, is still ahead of him. He’s everything you’d want in a guy running the Red Raiders' offense. His creativity and ability to make impossible throws are off-the-charts good.
Mahomes’ supporting cast is reloading quite a bit right now, so there’s going to be a lot on his shoulders in 2016. He’s going to develop new go-to guys, and we’ll see whether his new offensive line can be as effective at keeping him clean as the last one did. Mahomes makes the guys around him better, but he does need help.
So, yeah, I’m going out on a limb here and picking Texas Tech’s quarterback situation, even if most Big 12 fans have never heard of Mahomes’ backups. We don’t really know what they have in Nic Shimonek, Jett Duffey and Payne Sullins, but I’m a believer in Duffey and enrolling early has helped him bulk up nicely. Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury needs to get one of those guys ready to go.
But I’m still going with Tech. Maybe that looks dumb, but I expect Mahomes to establish himself as one of the nation’s best and most productive quarterbacks as a junior. He’s already pretty close, and he’s about to get even better.
Take 2: Jake Trotter -- Oklahoma
Like Max, I found it difficult not to put Baylor here. But until Russell gets back on the field and shows he can be the same quarterback who shredded opposing defenses before the injury, Baylor's quarterback situation makes me a little nervous. Even despite Stidham's enormous upside.
So with Max arguing Tech, I'll go with Oklahoma here. Both for the present and the future.
Baker Mayfield is coming off a tremendous season in which he quarterbacked the Sooners to the College Football Playoff semifinals while finishing fourth in the Heisman voting. Mayfield was at his best when games were on the line, as he completed 71.2 percent of his passes after halftime. Across the country, only Russell had a better rate, and he only played half the season. The Sooners have a proven winner at the position, which makes them the envy of most teams in the game.
Mayfield, however, isn't the only reason the Sooners get the nod.
Kyler Murray is primed to take over for Mayfield in 2017 after producing one of the greatest prep careers for a quarterback in Texas high school history. Sure, Murray's tenure at Texas A&M was a disaster. But he was hardly the only quarterback to have issues with the environment there. Oklahoma's situation should be much more stable for him to grow in.
The Sooners also have ESPN 300 signee Austin Kendall already on campus. With Murray ineligible this season, Trevor Knight having transferred to Texas A&M and Cody Thomas having given up football to play baseball, Kendall could be the No. 2 QB on the roster this season.
Yes, that's a little scary. Otherwise, Oklahoma's quarterback future seems incredibly bright.