Tramel: Can Texas Tech transfer Alan Bowman repeat the Baker Mayfield story?
A Texas high school quarterback wins the Texas Tech starting job as a true freshman, has a quite promising start, but injuries mount. He grows disenchanted as it appears the coaching staff prefers another QB. The Tech quarterback decides to transfer and lands at a blueblood program, one of the greatest in college football history, which has fallen on relatively hard times.
OK, now let’s move on. Time to discuss Baker Mayfield.
Sure, that first paragraph describes Mayfield. But it also describes Alan Bowman, who announced last week that he is transferring to Michigan.
The Mayfield/Bowman parallels are not perfect — Bowman spent three years in Lubbock, Mayfield one; Bowman endured a coaching change, Mayfield did not.
But still, the similarities are eerie. Can Bowman continue the likenesses? Mayfield became the most-decorated Sooner of them all, with three top-four finishes in Heisman voting, including winning the 2017 trophy. Such a storybook tale seems a longshot for Bowman. But it seemed a longshot for Mayfield, too.
Here are the mirror images of the Mayfield/Bowman stories.
High school: Bowman is from Grapevine, Mayfield from Austin Lake Travis.
Recruitment: Neither was a blue-chip quarterback. Mayfield was lightly-regarded, at various times headed for either Washington State or Texas Christian before settling on Tech, sans scholarship. Bowman drew more interest than that, but his best other offers came from Cincinnati, Houston and Ole Miss.
August competition: Mayfield in 2013 historically won the Tech starting job — the first non-scholarship true freshman to start at QB for a Power 5 program, beating out redshirt freshman Davis Webb, after veteran Michael Brewer was injured. Bowman, too, won the starting job, in 2018, beating out veterans McLane Carter and Jett Duffy.
Freshman sensation: In Mayfield’s first five games, Tech went 5-0 (including a win over TCU) and he threw for eight touchdowns with five interceptions and 1,488 yards. In Bowman’s first four games of 2018, Tech went 3-1 (including wins over OSU and Houston) and he threw for 10 touchdowns and just two interceptions, with 1,557 yards.
Injuries: Mayfield suffered a knee injury and missed four games in 2013. He returned to quarterback the final three games, all losses, throwing for four TDs and four interceptions and 827 yards. Bowman suffered a partially collapsed lung in the first half against West Virginia on Sept. 29, 2018. He missed 1½ games, returned to play two more, then suffered the same injury against OU. Against the Sooners, Bowman had completed 21 of 26 passes for 227 yards and two touchdowns. Tech led OU 31-28 at halftime, but Bowman didn’t return for the second half. The Sooners won 51-46.
Fallout: Tech in 2013 went to the Holiday Bowl and beat Arizona State, with Webb quarterbacking the Red Raiders. Mayfield was not happy. Bowman returned in 2019, was injured again and played just three games. In 2020, Bowman was occasionally relieved, then was benched. Bowman returned to quarterback most of Tech’s final three games. He apparently was not happy.
Kingsbury: Mayfield famously spatted with coach Kliff Kingsbury, who in 2013 was in his first season coaching the Red Raiders. Mayfield cited communication problems with the coaching staff as a reason for leaving. Conversely, Bowman seemed in tune with Kingsbury, but he was fired after Bowman’s freshman year. New Tech coach Matt Wells made Bowman the starter to begin each of the last two seasons, but in 2020, Wells turned to quarterback Henri Colombi, a transfer from Utah State, Wells’ prior employer.
Blueblood: When Mayfield chose OU, the Sooners were solid, but nothing like their current dominators of the Big 12. OU won the conference in 2010, then went 10-3, 10-3 and 11-2. The 2013 team beat Alabama 45-31 in the Sugar Bowl. OU slipped to 8-5 in 2014, the year Mayfield sat out as a transfer. When Bowman chose Michigan, the Wolverines were solid, but nothing like their glory days. Since Jim Harbaugh was hired as head coach, Michigan has gone 10-3, 10-3, 8-5, 10-3, 9-4 and 2-4 in the COVID-stricken season of 2020.
Quarterback prospects: Mayfield signed on with OU in the wake of Trevor Knight’s breakout Sugar Bowl performance. But Knight struggled in 2014, and Mayfield beat him out for the 2015 job. Bowman has joined a Michigan program that lost starting quarterback Joe Milton to transfer (and Dylan McCaffrey to transfer, too). The Wolverines return Cade McNamara, who started Michigan’s last two games, plus incoming freshman J.J. McCarthy.
After a Big 12 appeal, Mayfield had three years eligibility with the Sooners. He made the most of them. Bowman, as a graduate transfer and with the COVID-extension, has two years eligibility remaining. If Bowman comes anywhere close at Michigan to Mayfield’s revival at Oklahoma, the Wolverines will be very pleased.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. Support his work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.