By Nathan Keil | Sports Editor
The Lariat spoke with Abigail Bitterman, a football beat writer for the OU Daily, about her opinions on the 2017 Sooners. Bitterman said that with the experience of Baker Mayfield at quarterback and a top-five road win at Ohio State, this Oklahoma team is built to seriously compete for the College Football National Championship.
Q: Baker Mayfield has been an elite quarterback for the last several seasons, but something seems a little bit different about him this year. What is he doing that is taking his game and the team to the next level?
A: Baker Mayfield has been very motivated this year by all of the people who have doubted Oklahoma. He has a list in his locker of daily motivation and reminders, and one of them is to take his team to the national championship and win — a major goal in his final season and one that motivated him to come back. Mayfield has also matured a lot since he first came to Oklahoma. He runs less and looks at all of his options, really taking his time. Mayfield has said this is the closest team he’s ever been on, and that is something that has also helped himself and this team find the success it has.
Q: Oklahoma lost a lot of skilled position players last year in Dede Westbrook, Samaje Perine, Joe Mixon. Who are Baker’s playmakers and what do Baylor fans need to know about them?
A: There is now small group of playmakers this year. Every game there has been a different leading receiver. Mark Andrews, CeeDee Lamb and Jeff Badet are his three leading receivers through the first three games, and Abdul Adams and Trey Sermon tops the list of running backs. Lamb and Sermon are both true freshmen who have been able to make an impact early, while Badet is a graduate transfer from Kentucky and a more experienced playmaker. Adams had to wait behind Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon to get the opportunity he has this season, and he’s made the most of it. Andrews has been a factor for the Sooners before, but this year he’s had a big impact on the team, making big plays despite battling a quad bruise recently.
Q: Oklahoma was tripped up last year at home to Ohio State and it cost them a shot at the CFB Playoff. What did fans and the media learn about Oklahoma after its win in Columbus this season?
A: The biggest thing everyone learned about the Sooners after their victory in Columbus, Ohio, was that this team is for real. Oklahoma solidified itself as a playoff contender, and Mayfield made a strong case for himself in the Heisman race.
Q: Has there been a change in culture with the change in head coaches from Bob Stoops to Lincoln Riley? If so, what? How has it helped?
A: There really hasn’t been a big change in culture from Stoops to Riley. Most of the players have said it hasn’t felt any different at all. I think this can be credited in part to the fact that Riley was already with the program, he’s just in a new role now, so he and the players were already comfortable with each other.
Q: How is 2017 Oklahoma different from the Oklahoma teams of recent memory?
A: The biggest difference between 2017 Oklahoma snd recent Oklahoma teams of the past is that this team spreads the ball out a lot. It’s a balanced attack that utilizes more than just two or three guys.