NORMAN, Okla. — After four seasons at Kentucky, Jeff Badet knew the next decision he made wouldn’t come down to gut instinct. He was graduating with a season of eligibility remaining. Badet wanted to go somewhere to a team that threw the ball and had an established starting quarterback.
The Sooners have thrown it as much as anyone over the last two decades. But, for some reason, Badet wasn’t sure about the second specification. He thought Oklahoma’s quarterback situation was unsettled.
“I thought Baker [Mayfield] had declared [for the NFL draft] for some reason,” Badet said.
The trend is for quarterbacks who are Heisman Trophy finalists to bolt for the NFL as soon as the door opens. Mayfield announced in December he would be back at Oklahoma in 2017.
— John Shinn (@john_shinn) August 7, 2017
Badet didn’t get the news. Once inside receivers coach and recruiting coordinator Cale Gundy convinced Badet that Mayfield still was the Sooners’ quarterback, Mayfield and Kentucky’s leading receiver from 2016 began exchanging text messages.
“He was just plain and simple — ‘Hey, man, come catch passes from me.’ That’s how simple it was,” Badet said.
That was early in the spring of 2017. Badet announced he was transferring to Oklahoma for the 2017 season in March. The move became official when he graduated from Kentucky in May.
It was perfect timing for the Sooners. They enter the 2017 season with many critical pieces from their 11-2 squad from last season that won its second straight Big 12 Conference title.
One glaring void is at wide receiver. Their 2016 Biletnikoff Award winner, Dede Westbrook, is at the Jacksonville Jaguars training camp.
The injury to junior wide receiver Nick Basquine during the first week of preseason camp means Oklahoma’s leading wide receiver from last season is sophomore Mykel Jones. He caught 12 passes in 13 games.
Badet snagged 31 passes for 670 yards in his final season with the Wildcats. Four of the catches resulted in touchdowns. His 21.6 yards per catch led the SEC.
The Sooners believe he’ll eclipse those numbers in 2017.
“Jeff has been huge for us,” Mayfield said. “He’s another speedster on the outside. There are a bunch of guys that can get down the field. Jeff is perfect for this team because he adds that veteran experience and leadership to our locker room, which is what we needed.”
Tradition of strong senior transfer wide receivers
Senior transfers — especially wide receivers — have greatly aided Oklahoma. Last season, Geno Lewis arrived from Penn State. His 30 catches didn’t seem like much, but 11 occurred on third down. He averaged a team-best 13.6 yards per third-down reception.
In 2012, Justin Brown transferred from Penn State and recorded 72 receptions in his final season as a collegian.
Badet isn’t from Pennsylvania. He’d never heard of either until Gundy used both to illustrate the success senior transfers enjoyed at Oklahoma. Prior history factored in Badet’s decision.
How he’ll be used is the coaching staff’s determination. He spent the summer tracking down passes from Mayfield and backup quarterback Austin Kendall.
Mayfield liked what he saw.
“He’s able to go up and get it. He’s a guy that’s able to track the ball really well, which is something you’re either born with or you’re not,” Mayfield said. “It’s good to see we have a guy like that in our locker room.”