OK, the headline was a bit over the top.
Six days ago deposed OU QB Trevor Knight announced he would be leaving OU. Knight had been an early sensation in college, but his career at OU had petered out. OU gave him an unconditional release to transfer and play his senior season anywhere.
Two years and 4 days ago, Tech Freshman QB Baker Mayfield told Kliff Kingsbury he was leaving. Mayfield had walked on at Texas Tech, won the starting job, and had become the Big 12 freshman of the year....but still felt like Kingsbury was oddly dragging his feet about giving him a scholarship. Kingsbury had the option to not grant Mayfield his release and chose to do so in a moment that screams abuse of power. This move cost Mayfield a year of eligibility.
Lets take a deeper look at both situations.
Now OU's coach Bob Stoops' actions here are IMO quite admirable. Usually when a player transfers out of a big time program they have all these stipulations on who you can and can't play for that the school is allowed to lord over the player.
A bunch of crap.
I will give OU some credit for not imposing those limitations. (I guess I did in the headline). OU was about as nice, grateful, and respectful to Knight as school could be to a transferring player.
The thing is, morally this should be the status quo, so I don't want to break my hand patting Bob Stoops on the back. Plus, there are a lot of things that make his attention-getting position less earthshattering.
There is the reality that Trevor Knight was exposed on the field and is going through his "adversity moment". In stock terms, Trevor Knight was a sell. He was probably at the least effective point in his entire football career last season.
Knight looked great early in his OU career, then opponents got film on him and figured him out/he regressed for a number of reasons (mediocre coaching being one). Then new OC Lincoln Riley came in and brought the exact same offense that transfer Baker Mayfield won Big 12 newcomer of the year playing in. It would have been a total upset for Mayfield to not depose Knight for the starting job.
Knight did play a little last year, but looked absolutely horrible in the Air Raid.
Knight to his credit did what every college QB with NFL aspirations should do --- he worked hard in class in order to graduate early. This opened a couple of options for him.
This was his backup plan and it paid off handsomely for him. He could have transferred out as soon as Riley was hired and lost this season, but then he would have spent the rest of his life wondering, "Could I have won the job?" He'd have teammates ---friends---who would have felt betrayed. Plus then he would have had to sit out a year.
He was able to compete. He lost out. He played a little, but not well. Then he told Stoops he would be graduating early and requested his release.
Stoops probably looks at this and thinks, "Well he is graduating. I really do not have any hold over him anymore. He is abysmal in my offense so keeping him just burns a scholarship for a year so I am going to let him go...Do I put limits on where he can go? If I am benevolent it helps me in recruiting. If I am petty, it hurts OU's QB recruiting."
I'd like to think there was also some loyalty component for the games Knight won for OU, but there is probably just as much of a thought by Stoops that Knight is broken and will never be a threat should some conference team sign him. Maybe he has some tells of which OU is very aware.
I want to detour a bit and write a little about Trevor Knight's pro prospects here as I may not come back to this in the future.
Just failing in one offense doesn't mean you are a bad player or that you don't have an NFL future.
Plenty of NFL pros had uneven collegiate careers. Dan Marino had a very uninspiring senior year, but luck put him into a great spot for his talents in the NFL with two burners at WR in Mark Duper and Mark Clayton and he dominated the NFL starting early in his career.
Lots of successful pro QBs have had issues in the pros as well. Take a look at Steve Young's numbers in Tampa Bay. He was terrible. Then he moves to a system that fits him and becomes a hall of fame QB.
Steve DeBerg was a journeyman QB replaced by like 5 pro bowl QBs. He threw a lot of picks. Then DeBerg landed with the right coach. They figured out how to maximize his game. He learned to not bite on the dangerous throw. With good footwork and his convincing ball fakes, he blossomed into a pro bowl QB at like 34!
A stumble doesn't mean you are done.
If Trevor Knight chooses wisely, he will get a fair shot at the NFL. While a lot of team in the NFL use 4 and 5 WR sets here and there, no one runs the air raid. No one cares about last year.
If Knight choses a school that runs an offense in his comfort zone, are good teachers of mechanics, concepts and footwork, have worked with QBs who have gone to the NFL, and where the job is open and no dominant young talent is on hand, he can totally have a bounceback year and scouts will look at him very positively.
I have noticed that the QBs who fail in the NFL are usually the ones who didn't experience any adversity in college or high school and have no idea how to cope with the inevitable down moments. I am sure I am not alone in noticing this. To a lot of scouts, Knight going through this and bouncing back with a strong senior season would show them a lot.
Knight has already shown the talent to beat Alabama, the best talent on defense in the FBS ranks. If he can chose well, work hard, and have a pretty decent senior season --- proving his resiliency ---I think a lot of teams would look at him as Landry Jones-type --- a 3rd to 6th round pick chosen to be a potential long term NFL backup. That is a great job. 5-15 years of $1 to $3M annual checks and the ability to play with very little pressure.
I think he'll be alright.
Choose right kid. Ask around.
Mayfield's decision to leave Tech may seem a bit immature but honestly none of us know what the dynamics were between Mayfield and Kingsbury. Was Kingsbury playing weird mind games? The end of that relationship was a train wreck that resembled a hair pulling fight between two teenage girls. Neither party came out looking very mature.
What we can say is that at the end of the day, it was a man's decision with serious implications for his career for Mayfield to leave Tech. Mayfield rolled the dice on his career, transferred to OU, and then had some luck as Bob Stoops rebuilt the offense around Mayfield. Like him or not, you have to respect the fact that he was willing to lie in the bed he made.
But none of that is really relevant to me.
I think there are basic questions of fairness here which are laid out well in this article. Tech didn't pay for any of Mayfield's college fees. Should they have been allowed to affect his future?
The NCAA has rules in place which requires transferring FBS football players to sit out a year. There are several exceptions to this, one of which is referred to as the "one-time transfer exception" which allows non-recruited athletes in all sports to transfer once without sitting out a year.
There is an exception to that which allows a school to deny the release of a player. That is what Kingsbury did, in a move that screamed of spite and pettiness.
The Big 12 has a rule that then applied. If a player transfers and is not immediately eligible, they have to sit out a year and surrender a year of eligibility.
That is a clusterfuck of unfairness.
So today, I'd have to say OU and Bob Stoops look somewhat upstanding in an often murky profession.