Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield might be the most polarizing player in Big 12 history.
People love to watch him because of his talent and versatility. With his extraordinary passing skills and scrambling instincts, there isn’t another quarterback in college football who puts so much excitement into the game.
But there’s the other side of Mayfield that gets in trouble with the law and makes lewd gestures to opposing teams.
Still there’s no denying his talents, and that’s the reason he’s the Tribune-Herald’s Big 12 offensive player of the year.
Mayfield led the Big 12 in passing efficiency as he completed 71.4 percent for 4,097 yards and 37 touchdowns with just five interceptions through the regular season. The senior also ran for 245 yards and five touchdowns as the Sooners ran through the regular season with an 11-1 record, including an 8-1 record in the Big 12 in their first season under head coach Lincoln Riley.
“That guy’s a phenomenal football player,” said Kansas coach David Beaty. “He’s made so many plays and is a great competitor. He couldn’t be in better hands with Coach Riley. At his core of who he is, I know he’s a good young man and he has a terrific future.”
Mayfield makes it hard for teams to prepare for him because even he often doesn’t know what he’s going to do once the play unfolds. He can easily make a big play out of nothing.
“The best way to explain him is he’s as good of a player when the play breaks down and makes something out of it since (former Texas quarterback) Vince Young,” said Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy. “He has the ability to make a play when the defense contains him and still finds a way to be successful. He’s highly competitive and has been really good.”
Mayfield was arrested in February in Fayetteville, Ark., and was charged with public intoxication, disorderly conduct, fleeing and resisting arrest. The last charge was dropped in June in a plea bargain.
Mayfield apologized for the arrest and did much community service in Oklahoma, but during the season he repeatedly got into incidents with opposing teams. After the Kansas football captains refused to shake his hand during the pregame coin flip, he made lewd gestures toward them during the game.
Recently, a video surfaced of Mayfield drilling a TCU player with the football as he ran out on the field for pregame warmups.
But Riley stands behind his quarterback, who has become a leading candidate to win the Heisman Trophy.
“He’s a kid,” Riley said. “Young people make mistakes and they’ve got to learn and grow from it. Baker is no different. He’s certainly got to be held accountable and learn from his actions. He does a lot of great things in this community off the field, and I’ve been proud to coach him. He’s a special player and person and has been great for this university.”
The Tribune-Herald’s defensive player of the year is TCU senior defensive end Mat Boesen who led the Big 12 with 11½ sacks and set a school record with 5½ sacks in the Horned Frogs’ 45-22 win over Baylor in the regular season finale last weekend.
Boesen began his college career at Boise State before transferring to Long Beach (Calif.) City College. He collected six sacks last season in his first year with the Horned Frogs but became a better pass rusher as a senior.
“Matt plays with a lot of energy,” said TCU coach Gary Patterson. “He was a wrestler, and for his size he plays against bigger guys and has the speed to turn the corner. Most JUCO guys have to transition to learn a new system. Matt started to catch on at the end of last year and came on in the spring and has really had a great season.”
Lincoln Riley respects what Boesen brings to the table for the Horned Frogs. Not only is he a fierce pass rusher, he has a nose for the ball as he forced three fumbles.
“Mat Boesen was awesome in the Baylor game, geez 5½ sacks,” Riley said. “He’s a relentless player and played really well for them all season. He’s improved over the course of the season. He plays hard and has a great motor and is great with his hands. Gary (Patterson) puts him in position to use his skills.”
While Riley did a superb job leading the Sooners to an 11-1 regular season record, the Big 12 coach of the year is Matt Campbell who guided Iowa State’s remarkable rise with two of the biggest upsets of the college football season.
After the Cyclones finished 3-9 in his first season, Campbell led them to a 7-5 regular season record this year. Oklahoma and TCU were ranked in the top five in the country when the Cyclones stunned them.
“The biggest thing I appreciate about this group is its willingness to get better,” Campbell said. “We had to change the culture of the program, and we’ve been able to do it. Whether it has been tough losses or success, we’ve come back to work and strained to get better, and have continued to build a foundation for the future.”
Though Baylor quarterback Charlie Brewer didn’t play until the fifth game of the season against Kansas State and didn’t start until the ninth game, he’s the Tribune-Herald’s freshman of the year.
Brewer put up solid numbers as a true freshman as he completed 68.1 percent of his passes for 1,562 yards and 11 touchdowns with just four interceptions. The former Lake Travis High School star guided the Bears to their only win against Kansas, a 38-9 decision on Nov. 4 in Lawrence as he hit 23 of 29 passes for 315 yards and three touchdowns.
“Charlie is a good quarterback and he has a bright future,” said Baylor coach Matt Rhule. “He’s a guy who can move around and extend the play. I do think Charlie’s biggest asset would be his accuracy, and that was in high school, and it shows up again here in college.”
The freshman defensive player of the year is West Virginia defensive back Kenny Robinson who had three interceptions, three pass breakups and 38 tackles with two for loss. Two of his interceptions went for touchdowns, including a 39-yarder against Oklahoma State and a 94-yarder against Texas.
“As a young guy, he was unfazed with the magnitude of the game,” said West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen. “We weren’t planning on starting him but he was confident and stepped in and got playing time at cornerback. He makes a lot of mistakes, but it doesn’t faze him. He had two picks for touchdowns, so we’re excited about him.”
West Virginia quarterback Will Grier is the offensive newcomer of the year after hitting 64.4 percent of his passes for 3,490 yards and 34 touchdowns. Grier is a junior who transferred to West Virginia from Florida.
The Big 12 defensive newcomer of the year is TCU defensive end Ben Benoga, a junior transfer from Louisiana-Monroe who collected 14 tackles for loss, including 7½ sacks while forcing two fumbles.
2017 TRIBUNE-HERALD ALL-BIG 12 FOOTBALL TEAM
- Offensive player of the year: Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield
- Defensive player of the year: TCU DE Mat Boesen
- Coach of the year: Matt Campbell, Iowa State
- Offensive newcomer of the year: West Virginia QB Will Grier
- Defensive newcomer of the year: TCU DE Ben Benogu
- Offensive freshman of the year: Baylor QB Charlie Brewer
- Defensive freshman of the year: West Virginia DB Kenny Robinson
FIRST TEAM OFFENSE
Pos Player School Class Notable
QB Baker Mayfield Oklahoma Sr Leading Heisman Trophy candidate
RB Justice Hill Oklahoma State Soph Big 12-high 1,347 rushing yards, 14 TDs
RB David Montgomery Iowa State Soph 1,094 yards rushing, 11 TDs
OL Orlando Brown Oklahoma Jr Great NFL potential
OL Jake Campos Iowa State Sr Major part of ISU resurgence
C Erick Wren Oklahoma Sr Wrecking ball in middle
OL Dalton Risner Kansas State Sr Returning all-Big 12 lineman
OL Zach Crabtree Oklahoma State Sr Key lineman for dynamic offense
WR David Sills West Virginia Jr NCAA high 18 TD catches
WR James Washington Oklahoma State Sr Leading Bilitenikoff candidate
WR Keke Coutee Texas Tech Jr 82 catches, 1,242 yards, 9 TDs
KR D.J. Reed Kansas State Jr 35.3-yard kickoff return average
K Austin Seibert Oklahoma Jr 13 of 15 field goals
FIRST TEAM DEFENSE
DL Mat Boesen TCU Sr League-high 11.5 sacks
DL DeQuinton Osborne Oklahoma State Sr 5.5 sacks
DL Ben Banogu TCU Jr 17 tackles for loss
DL Daniel Wise Kansas Jr 17.5 tackles for loss
LB Ogbonnia Okoronkwo Oklahoma Sr Second in Big 12 w/ 8 sacks
LB Joe Dineen Kansas Jr League-high 135 tackles
LB Malik Jefferson Texas Jr Second in league w/ 110 tackles
DB DeShon Elliott Texas Jr Big 12-high 6 interceptions
DB D.J. Reed Kansas State Jr 4 interceptions, 9 breakups
DB Ranthony Texada TCU Sr 13 pass breakups
DB Kris Boyd Texas Jr League-high 16 passes defended
P Michael Dickson Jr Big 12-high 48.4-yard average
SECOND TEAM OFFENSE
QB Mason Rudolph Oklahoma State Sr League-high 4,553 yards passing
RB Justin Crawford West Virginia Sr 1,060 yards rushing, 7 TDs
RB Rodney Anderson Oklahoma Soph 867 yards rushing, 11 TDs
OL Ben Powers Oklahoma Jr Tremendous JUCO transfer
OL Dru Samia Oklahoma Jr Powerful run and pass blocker
C Austin Schlottmann TCU Sr TCU O-line leader
OL Brad Lundblade Oklahoma State Sr Paved way for OSU offense
OL Yodny Cajuste West Virginia Jr Mountaineers’ best lineman
WR Denzel Mims Baylor Soph 61 catches, 1,087 yards, 8 TDs
WR Allen Lazard Iowa State Sr 61 catches, 799 yards, 9 TDs
WR Gary Jennings West Virginia Jr League-best 94 catches
KR Marcus Simms West Virginia Soph 25.6-yard kickoff return average
K Matt McCrane Kansas State Sr 21 of 26 field goals
SECOND TEAM DEFENSE
DL Will Geary Kansas State Sr Nine tackles for loss
DL Poona Ford Texas Jr Force up front for Longhorns
DL Ira Lewis Baylor Jr 11.5 tackles for loss
DL J.D. Waggoner Iowa State Sr 10.5 tackles for loss
LB Joel Lanning Iowa State Sr 110 tackles second in Big 12
LB Al Benton West Virginia Sr 102 tackles fourth in league
LB Travin Howard TCU Sr 83 tackles in 10 games
DB Tre Flowers Oklahoma State Sr 10 passes defended
DB Justus Parker Texas Tech Soph 4 interceptions, 4 breakups
DB A.J. Green Oklahoma St Soph 4 interceptions, 4 breakups
DB Kamari Cotton-Moya Iowa State Sr Led solid ISU defense
P Nick Walsh Kansas State Sr 43.7-yard average second in league