Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Quarterback Patrick Mahomes and Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury during a 48-17 loss to West Virginia this season.

 

COMMENTARY

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes II joined the cadre of Big 12 stars planning to enter the NFL draft early.

Mahomes made his announcement Tuesday morning, not long after Oklahoma career rushing leader Samaje Perine said he intended to forego his senior season as well.

They join a group of early departures including Texas running back D’Onta Foreman, Baylor receiver KD Cannon and Oklahoma State defensive tackle Vincent Taylor.

The status remains unclear for Oklahoma’s dynamic running back Joe Mixon, a redshirt sophomore with heavy baggage but more NFL upside than Perine. Mixon infamously sat out the 2014 season after punching a female OU student, video of which was released only last month following a string of judiciary obstacles. Scrutiny from that episode justifiably will follow Mixon regardless of where he plays in 2017, though the chants from Auburn fans of “He hits women!” during Monday night’s Sugar Bowl offer a clue to what he can expect at the college level.

As of Tuesday, West Virginia projects to return its underclassmen, despite buzz about running back Justin Crawford and receiver Shelton Gibson weighing their pro options. Presuming Mixon leaves, Crawford could be the Big 12’s top returning rusher after compiling 1,184 yards as a junior — about half of that in late-season games against Oklahoma and Baylor.

Mahomes produced prolific numbers in every category except wins, going just 13-16 as a starter. The FBS total offense leader for the past two seasons, Mahomes leaves Texas Tech with 12,097 total yards and 11,252 passing. His backyard brand of extending plays led to 115 career touchdowns but will require some refinement at the next level.

His father, former major-league pitcher Pat Mahomes, added juice Tuesday by recounting how Texas coach Mack Brown wanted his to play safety in college.

“I told ’em, ‘That lets me know they don’t watch film, because that boy ain’t tackled nobody in two years,'” the father told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.

Then again, not many Power 5 programs pursued Mahomes to play quarterback, but the convergence of Kliff Kingsbury’s offensive system and Tech’s awful defense fueling the need for shootouts made him a statistical beast. (Now Kingsbury, in a hot-seat year, will turn to senior Nic Shimonek, an Iowa transfer who made a couple nice relief appearances in the wake of Mahomes’ injuries.)

Mahomes finished third in Big 12 passing efficiency this season, behind Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield and Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph, both of whom said they’ll be back for their senior seasons. The Cowboys received another boost with the return of James Washington, whose 1,380 receiving yards ranked second in the league to Oklahoma senior Dede Westbrook.

Equally important from West Virginia’s perspective for 2017, season-opening opponent Virginia Tech lost three playmaking juniors to the draft list — quarterback Jerod Evans, receiver Isaiah Ford and 6-foot-7 tight end Bucky Hodges. Ford leaves as the Hokies’ all-time receiving leader, while Hodges ranks fifth; combined they depart with 44 touchdowns and more than 4,700 receiving yards.

Evans spent only one season at Virginia Tech as a junior-college transfer and made it count, compiling 3,546 passing yards and 29 touchdowns and rushing for a team-high 846 yards and 12 scores.

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