In 2014, Oklahoma’s scout team consisted of quarterback Baker Mayfield, tight end Mark Andrews, left tackle Orlando Brown Jr., wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham and others.
It was then that Mayfield, a lightly-regarded transfer from Texas Tech, first made a name for himself. He claimed the starting job, led Oklahoma to three straight major bowl games, won the Heisman Trophy and became the first-overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft.
“We were loaded, bro,” Brown said of that 2014 scout team. “I think that year we went 8-5, but that scout team probably could have started for any team in the Big 10.”
Now the Oklahoma trio of Mayfield, Andrews and Brown are set to reunite Sunday in what will be Mayfield’s first NFL home start – a huge occasion in Cleveland.
There’s been some light trash talk in texts this week between the three players, who each call each other some of their best friends and greatest teammates. But come Sunday, the tone will change.
“I’m looking forward to seeing them on Sunday, but the message is definitely mutual, that it’s going to be competitive,” Mayfield said. “Everybody here wants to win, so it will be great, but then we’ll be friends after.”
Ravens coaches aren’t bringing in Andrews and Brown for any formal scouting report on Mayfield. What are they really going to say? He’s passionate? He’s a backyard-style playmaker?
“I can’t really say we’ve gotten any great information, to be honest with you,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said with a laugh.
Baltimore’s veteran defenders also probably don’t want to be told by a couple of offensive rookies about how good their buddy was in college. The Ravens know who Mayfield is and what he does.
But with all that said, Andrews and Brown certainly do have some thoughts.
“A lot of what he does is very evident – the passion he brings and all that. You’re kind of preaching to the choir when you say that,” Andrews said. “I’m just trying to let them know he’s a special player and you really have to bottle him up.”
Most of the time when facing rookie quarterbacks, defenses try to bring something they haven’t seen before to confuse and/or fluster them. They want to make the rookie turn the ball over or take sacks.
Asked if there’s anything different when facing a rookie quarterback than 14-year Steelers veteran Ben Roethisberger last week, Harbaugh said “absolutely.”
“Ben has seen it all, so that chess game is way more detailed,” Harbaugh said. “There’s more of, ‘Yes, but he knows that, and he knows that we know that he knows that we know, but we know that he knows,’ going on. And then there’s the rookie. He might not know.
“But, Baker Mayfield is pretty advanced. He’s not, I don’t think, a rookie in the true sense. He seems like he has a really good feel for the game.”
That’s the same advice Andrews and Brown have for Ravens Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale and his unit. Don’t expect to fluster Mayfield so easily.
“He’s a very smart player. It’s almost like he has a photographic memory,” Andrews said. “It’s not like he’s a typical rookie quarterback. You can’t just bring blitzes all over the place and expect that he hasn’t see that before, because he has.”
“In college, he never struggled with blitzes and pressures,” Brown said. “How he’s going to handle it on Sunday, we’ll have to see.”
Andrews also talked about Mayfield’s competitiveness. It will surely be a live atmosphere Sunday in FirstEnergy Stadium with it being the No. 1 pick’s first home start. He will do anything to win that game.
“He’s going to fight his heart out. He’s going to be tough to beat,” Andrews said. “All those guys on that team are going to rally behind him. That’s the type of player he is. So just try to shut him down and try to cut the head off the snake.”
In his two games so far, Mayfield is 1-1. He came off the bench to beat the New York Jets, throwing for 201 yards and even catching a two-point conversion pass. Last week in Oakland, he was 21-of-41 for 295 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. He also lost two fumbles.
Mayfield knows the Ravens defense, which has a long history of success against rookie starters, will be looking to spoil his home debut.
“They come up and intimidate you, try to hit you, set the tone for the whole game,” Mayfield said. “Then on top of that, they’re just good at what they do.”
Just don’t trash talk him.
“I kind of love that – the trash talk, the rivalry stuff – throughout a game,” Mayfield said. “That comes with football, and I enjoy that. You have to be competitive. You want the game to be like that. You want it to be heated and passionate to have fun.”