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August 8, 2014

Mayfield awaits appeal with NCAA

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Unlike it was at this time last year, Oklahoma's starting quarterback position is pretty well sewn up.

OU signal caller Trevor Knight monogrammed his name on it after leading the Sooners to a decisive upset against Alabama in last season's Sugar Bowl. His outstanding performance started a domino effect at the quarterback position.

Former Sooner Kendal Thompson announced his decision to transfer, ending up at the University of Utah. Senior Blake Bell, the man who led OU to a win against Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., last year made the move to tight end.

That would've left Knight, redshirt freshman Cody Thomas and true freshman Justice Hansen as the only quarterbacks left on OU's roster. This made it painfully obvious just how little experience was behind Knight should he suffer the kind of injury that could derail a season.

Then Baker Mayfield came along.

The former starting quarterback at Texas Tech lit up Big 12 defense sans scholarship for eight games, passing for just over 2,300 yards with 12 touchdowns and nine picks. As a freshman, he had more passes thrown and caught than former Sooner Landry Jones and was named the conference's Offensive Freshman of the Year.

Though he split time with Tech quarterback Davis Webb, Mayfield looked to have a real chance to become the Red Raiders' starting quarterback for the foreseeable future.

Then he decided to leave Lubbock. He picked Oklahoma.

Mayfield enrolled at OU last spring and showed how quickly he could adapt to his new surroundings and a new offense when he completed every pass he attempted (9) for 125 yards in the Sooners' spring game. Since then the 6-foot-2, 209-pound sophomore has only learned more, gotten better and grown closer to his new teammates.

"I really have gotten close to Baker," Knight said. "I enjoy working with him every day. He pushes me as a player and I feel like I push him as a player, and yeah, I want what's best for him. He really adds a good dimension to our meeting room."

Heading into a season where the Sooners will begin as the No. 3-ranked team in the country, according to the coaches poll, Mayfield looks like an ideal fit to be OU's steady backup quarterback. Except he isn't eligible.

Tech blocked Mayfield's transfer to OU, hoping to keep Mayfield from being eligible to play in 2014. Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said why at Big 12 Media Days last month.

"Team policy. That's it," he said. "The NCAA has the in-conference policy for a reason."

Mayfield plans to appeal for immediate eligibility, and his family hired the man former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel did when he was being investigated by the NCAA for allegedly being paid money to sign autographs while still a student-athlete.

Attorney Jim Darnell, who went to Putnam City High School in Oklahoma City but who's practice is in El Paso, Texas, has one goal in mind for Mayfield.

"Hopefully, we're going to be able to get him eligible and a scholarship," Darnell said.

Darnell doesn't think the system has failed Mayfield. In fact, he's optimistic that the system will come through for his client.

"I'm hoping the system will do what it's supposed to do and take care of the people who need taking care of," Darnell said.

Tech didn't offer Mayfield a scholarship and because it didn't Darnell doesn't believe the school should be able to block Mayfield from playing this season.

"If you've invested money in a kid, you've got some argument," Darnell said. "If you don't invest anything in that kid, and that kid has invested tens of thousands of dollars in you and is told there's not going to be anything coming back, at that point the kid should be free to move on just like every body else."

For Darnell, Mayfield's situation isn't complicated.

His client was not on scholarship at Tech, and, because he wasn't, he should be declared eligible. Mayfield should be classified as a non-recruited athlete and that should make him a prime candidate for a one-time transfer exemption.

"I think he should be able to play right away," Darnell said. "I don't think a reasonable person will disagree with me."



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