Breaking news: Backup quarterback wants to become better player, overtake No. 1 (and 2?) on depth chart for the upcoming season.
It’s not necessarily a headline that will force you to double-take, but it’s noteworthy in the aspect that it could prove dire for Bob Stoops and Oklahoma’s hopeful bounceback season in 2015. Cody Thomas is quitting baseball this spring so he can put all of his eggs into one big football basket and overtake Trevor Knight as the Sooners’ new starting quarterback.
“I have decided not to play baseball this spring so I can focus on football,” wrote Thomas in a statement, via his Twitter account. “I want to thank coach (Pete) Hughes and the University of Oklahoma baseball program for making this opportunity possible. This has been a rough decision and I am thankful for all the support.”
Thomas, who will be a redshirt sophomore next season, completed 45.5 percent of his passes for 342 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions, adding 141 yards and a score on the ground in seven appearances (three starts) last season. Most of his playing time came in the reserve role as a second option to Knight, and though they’re not all that appealing, his numbers shouldn’t be misinterpreted.
Thomas has a real shot to win the starting job this spring, and he has Stoops to thank for it; when Oklahoma plucked offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley from East Carolina to fill the same position, Thomas must have jumped out of his seat in excitement.
Not the greatest fit for Josh Heupel and Jay Norvell’s approach to the passing game – but hey, neither was Knight or Blake Bell – Thomas’ skill set is something Riley can utilize right away in his Air Raid scheme. At 6-foot-5, 210 pounds with a dash of mobility and athleticism (albeit not to the extreme of Knight’s), Thomas possesses the strong arm, quick release and fast decision-making that makes him an appealing option for the revamped Sooners offense.
Back in high school, Thomas ran a similar-styled system, which would make him familiar with the four- and five-receiver sets, pushing the ball downfield or gradually opting for his second or third option somewhere just beyond the line of scrimmage. He completed 63.7 percent of his passes his senior year, throwing for 4,221 yards, 46 touchdowns and seven interceptions; his 35.3 attempts per game assumes he’d have the experience to hit 40- and 50-plus at the college level, much like Riley did with Shane Carden in Greenville.
And while Knight can always revert to his Sugar Bowl performance against Alabama, there’s not much he can credit himself to success-wise under center for the Sooners. After a dismal outing against Clemson in a 40-6 Russell Athletic Bowl loss, Stoops – who fired much of his offensive staff following – said the quarterback position will be “open” this spring.
That could mean that he’s fed up with Knight, who failed miserably to live up to Oklahoma’s high expectations for the 2014 season, and is ready to start anew with a different guy who presents opposing defenses with contrasting challenges.
Texas Tech transfer Baker Mayfield, now eligible, will also be in the running for the starting position this fall and did some nice things as a true freshman while wearing a Red Raiders jersey back in 2013. However, due to his measurables and clear system advantage, it would be easy to presume that Thomas will have a leg up on the competition, especially now that he’s showing the coaching staff that he’s dedicated to becoming a better quarterback by leaving the baseball team.
Oklahoma, desperately in need of a new identity, has an exciting storyline to follow over the next few months.