NORMAN — Alabama graduate transfer Jalen Hurts was the center of Oklahoma's Media Day last week as reporters surrounded his table awaiting every word from the man projected to be the Sooners' new starting quarterback.
Just a few tables down, Tanner Mordecai — Hurts' competition for the job — was generally being ignored.
OU head coach Lincoln Riley has been mocked on ESPN and local media outlets for not naming Hurts as the starter and insisting the job is open.
Mordecai has not given up on his goal to be the Sooner starter after redshirting a year ago after coming in from Midway High School in Waco, Texas. He had been recruited by Georgia, Oklahoma State and Mississippi among others.
"I've always been focused on what I want to achieve,'' Mordecai said. "The switch is always on. I have the chance to be the guy. I'm pretty excited.''
Mordecai tries to ignore the odds against him. He does admit "maybe it does a little bit'' in motivating him.
"I'm confident in myself,'' he said. "I don't pay attention to things like that because their opinions don't matter. I believe in myself and the other guys.''
Mordecai came to OU ranked the No. 10 pocket-passing quarterback out of high school by ESPN and the No. 23 player in the state of Texas. He threw for 4,797 yards and 51 touchdowns in his career with just 13 interceptions in 567 attempts. He ran for another 1,511 yards and 20 touchdowns.
He is not backing down from competition and his qualifications to be the starter.
"I'm a competitive dude,'' Mordecai said. "I put the team first. I can lead this team to what we can potentially achieve and do it.''
He has tried to take one practice at a time with the goal of improving every day.
"I just keep going and put everything I can do into this game and let things fall where it lies,'' he said. "Coach Riley is confident in what I can do and trusts me. Fall camp is a big couple of weeks for us. We'll see what we can do.
"For sure, I'm always going to be ready when the opportunity comes. No matter what, I believe in myself and what I can do. I'm confident about the fall camp.''
Mordecai was 12 of 24 passing for 153 yards and a touchdown in OU's spring game in April. Hurts was 11 of 14 for 174 yards and a touchdown
"I thought I had a really good spring,'' he said. "My spring game wasn't as good as I hoped, but that's one practice out of 15. I was disappointed in it because I know I can do better.''
He felt he and his teammates got bigger and stronger during the summer.
"We ran a lot,'' he said. "We got in shape. We're ready to roll.''
Riley has said he won't name a starter until Hurts or Mordecai or freshman Spencer Rattler have separated themselves from the others. He promises equal reps until a starter is determined.
"Competition makes everybody better,'' Mordecai said. "There's no doubt that we have to play our best ball. My goal is to be the guy to win the starting job absolutely. The competition has been fun. I had a good spring and a good summer. I'm ready for fall camp.''
He has a good relationship with both Hurts and Rattler, saying both are "good guys who work hard.''
Mordecai is the only one who actually played a real game for the Sooners.
He took advantage of the new redshirt rule a year ago (in which a player can play up to four games without losing a year of eligibility).
Mordecai played against both Florida Atlantic and UCLA. He was two of four passing for 37 yards, including one 33-yard completion against Florida Atlantic. He was named one of the squad's offensive scout team players of the year.
"It was good to get my feet wet,'' he said.
He studied future Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray closely throughout.
"I just learned what Kyler does,'' Mordecai said. "He taught me how to handle situations — how to handle yourself on the field and off the field — how he leads the guys and how he takes control.''