DALLAS (AP) — Baker Mayfield once hosted Patrick Mahomes on a recruiting visit at Texas Tech.
Mahomes will be the host in late October when Mayfield leads Oklahoma, the overwhelming preseason favorite to win another Big 12 title, into Lubbock for a head-to-head meeting between two of the best quarterbacks in a high-scoring league filled with talented signal-callers.
West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said the current crop of Big 12 quarterbacks, including four who threw for more than 3,100 yards last season, is reminiscent of a stretch nearly a decade ago when the league had most of its top all-time passers, including Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford with the Sooners in 2008.
“This reminds me of some of those 2006, 2007, 2008 years where we had a lot of older guys that were returning guys. Quarterback play has been great in this league for a long, long time,” Holgorsen said. “The last couple of years it’s been a little bit more spotty, but seeing all these guys coming back with what they can do, I think is pretty good.”
Potential Big 12 expansion and the Baylor assault scandal dominated the headlines during football media days. But there was still a lot of talk about what to watch on the field in 2016, including the Big 12’s platoon of quarterbacks.
Mayfield was fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting last season, when he had 3,700 yards passing and 37 touchdowns on way to the College Football Playoff in his Sooners’ debut. He will be a junior again this season, having gotten a season of eligibility back after a Big 12 rule change this summer. He was the first walk-on true freshman to start a season opener for an FBS team, in 2013 for Texas Tech, before transferring.
Mahomes led the nation last season with 393 total yards per game, accounting for 46 touchdowns (36 passing, 10 rushing) as a sophomore.
“I like both of those young men a lot,” Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “I think that’s where Baker wanted to be and it’s worked out for him there. ... I know Patrick wanted to be at Texas Tech and both guys have had a tremendous run, and there is more yet to come.”
Skyler Howard returns for his senior season at West Virginia and Oklahoma State junior Mason Rudolph is healthy after a broken foot hampered him and the Cowboys down the stretch — they lost their last three games after a 10-0 start.
Baylor gets back Seth Russell, who was the top-rated FBS passer before a season-ending neck injury in the Bears’ seventh game last season.
Trevone Boykin is no longer at TCU, but former Texas A&M transfer Kenny Hill — who in his Aggies debut as a freshman in 2013 set a single-game school record with 511 yards passing — is competing for the Horned Frogs’ starting job after having to sit out last season.
Some more things to watch when the season begins:
On the ground
The Big 12 also has some big runners. Mike Warren had 1,339 yards rushing as a freshman for Iowa State last season, and is among four returning 1,000-yard rushers. The others: Oklahoma junior Samaje Perine (1,349 yards) and the Baylor duo of senior Shock Linwood (1,329 yards) and Johnny Jefferson (1,000 yards).
Jim Grobe, the 64-year-old former Wake Forest coach, came out of semi-retirement for a one-year contract as Baylor’s acting head coach. New Iowa State coach Matt Campbell, who came from Toledo, is the youngest head coach of any Power Five conference team at age 36.
Texas coach Charlie Strong certainly has no problem starting a freshman at quarterback (remember Teddy Bridgewater at Louisville when Strong was his coach?). Shane Buechele was impressive in spring practice with the Longhorns after graduating high school early, and could start the opener Sept. 4 against Notre Dame.
“When you have a guy like Shane working the way he works, it rubs off on the whole team,” Strong said. “Now everybody is seeing the way he works and they all did it.”
Kansas has won only one of its last 21 games, and last year became the Big 12’s first team to go a full season without winning a game.
“Last year, my biggest ache was for our fans, our coaches and our players because they deserve more, they really do,” second-year coach David Beaty said. “We were doing foundation work and it’s hard, but it’s necessary. ... Our deal now is we gotta win games.”