Marvin Mims gets the fresh start he needed
Despite his early success at Oklahoma, Marvin Mims wasn't happy with his role. OU's star receiver strongly considered entering the transfer portal after the 2021 season, so why did he stay?
Marvin Mims received exactly what he needed this offseason.
The talented receiver, who shattered Texas high school football records and attracted dozens of FBS offers as a consensus four-star prospect coming out of Frisco’s Lone Star High School, enters his third year at Oklahoma and has established himself as the roster’s best receiver his first two seasons in Norman.
Still, Mims wasn’t satisfied with his role.
"There wasn’t as many targets as I was looking for, nowhere near it," Mims told 247Sports.com’s Chris Hummer during Big 12 Media Days. "It was kind of a letdown, but at the end of the day I had to just keep battling through it. There were times where I was really unhappy about it with both the receiver coach and the offensive coordinator, but it was what it was.”
Mims led OU in receiving yards in both 2020 and 2021 — accumulating 610 yards his freshman year and 705 the next — but went from scoring nine touchdowns in 2020 to five as a sophomore and recorded 32 catches in 2021 after grabbing 37 the year before in two fewer games.
Mims capitalized on fewer opportunities with an average reception of 22 yards, a 25% increase from the year before. But as OU’s offense seemed to regress another year under then-coach Lincoln Riley and the Sooners falling well short of their national championship aspirations, Mims thought a different program might be best for his future.
Luckily for first-year coach Brent Venables, he hired an offensive coordinator Mims was willing to stick around for in 2022. And if Mims is as prioritized and productive as some of the receivers that have played for new OU offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby, his decision to stay should leave him with no regrets as he presumably eyes next year’s NFL draft.
Mims flashed his potential from the start of his Sooner career.
He caught three passes for 80 yards and a touchdown in his debut against Missouri State on Sept. 12, 2020. Two weeks later, he scored twice in a loss to Kansas State on just five catches and 31 receiving yards.
Mims’ five receptions in his second career OU game would be the most he recorded the rest of the regular season, nor would he surpass that total the following season.
He did post a season-high 132 yards receiving on four catches against TCU on Oct. 24, 2020 and reached seven catches in OU's Big 12 championship game victory over Iowa State. It seemed reasonable Mims would make an even bigger jump his sophomore season.
It just never materialized.
Mims’ attention in the passing game, while statistically anything to scoff at, decreased with third-year receiver Jadon Haselwood, true freshman Mario Williams and Arkansas transfer Mike Woodsall finishing with more receptions than Mims.
Keep in mind, Oklahoma’s offense underwent a midseason quarterback change with Riley benching Spencer Rattler for Caleb Williams during Oklahoma’s 2021 showdown with Texas. Mims had the best game of his young career against the Longhorns, recording 136 yards on five catches and two touchdowns. But in the Sooners’ two biggest games of the year against Baylor and Oklahoma State, Mims had a combined three catches for 21 yards and zero touchdowns.
The Sooners lost both games.
Following Riley’s departure for Southern Cal, no player seemed to be a guarantee to stick with the program, as is common with any coaching change. It was a chance for Mims to reset and find an offensive coordinator that could unlock his full potential.
Instead, Brent Venables brought the change to him.
Look at the numbers of Lebby’s past offensive units and it’s easy to see why Mims decided to stay.
For those unfamiliar, Lebby, 38, earned his first high-level offensive coordinator job at Central Florida, where he started as a quarterbacks coach in 2018 and promoted to offensive coordinator the next season.
A quick look at the Knights’ 2019 offense (national ranking in parentheses), which featured current OU quarterback Dillon Gabriel as the team’s starter:
Total offense: 541.5 yards per game (2nd)
Scoring offense: 43.4 points per game (5th)
First downs: 25.6 per game (5th)
Passing offense: 316.7 yards per game (8th)
Rushing offense: 224.8 yards per game (19th)
UCF finished 10-3 and No. 24 in the final Associated Press rankings in 2019 but would lose their offensive coordinator to the SEC.
Lebby went to Ole Miss and again orchestrated a high-powered offense, which ranked third nationally in total offense (555.9 yards per game), fourth in first downs per game (27.6), seventh in passing offense (344.9 yards per game) and 14th in scoring offense (39.2 points per game).
The next season, Lebby’s unit finished sixth nationally in total offense (492.8 yards per game), helping the program make its first New Year’s 6 bowl since 2015 along the way.
How does Mims stack up with Lebby’s top receiving options at his past two stops? We compared Mims’ 2021 season to Mississippi receiver Dontario Drummond’s 2021 season, Mississippi’s Elijah Moore’s 2020 season and UCF’s Gabriel Davis’s 2019 season.
While Mims has a healthy collection of highlights, his lack of volume compared to other receivers in comparable offenses is alarming. Lebby is more than willing to feed his best receiving target, a luxury Mims was never afforded.
It’s not as if Riley never produced receivers with video-game statistics. Dede Westbrook, Marquise Brown and CeeDee Lamb enjoyed plenty of success at Oklahoma. Perhaps Riley’s trust, or lack thereof, in his quarterbacks’ abilities dwindled as he went from the likes of Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray and Jalen Hurts to the more inexperienced Spencer Rattler and Caleb Williams.
But there just hasn’t been a receiver as effective as Mims on OU’s roster since Lamb left school early. Mims' 22 yards per catch last season nearly doubled the next Sooner receiver's 2021 average (minimum 20 receptions) — Woods finished at 11.4 yards per catch, Mario Williams at 10.9 and Haselwood at 10.2. Among Haselwood, Woods and Williams, only Haselwood and Woods had a game last season with at least one 50-yard reception.
Mims had four.
Oklahoma’s receiver room remains loaded with potential with Mims as the headliner. A healthy Theo Wease could push well past 500 receiving yards. Jalil Farooq is expected to play a bigger role after shining in OU’s Alamo Bowl win over Oregon to end last season. Drake Stoops returns as one of the team’s most reliable options over the last few years. Missouri transfer J.J. Hester and Arizona State transfer LV Bunkley-Shelton have the talent to contribute in their first year in Norman. And there are plenty of young players, including the likes of freshmen Nic Anderson and Jayden Gibson, that have OU’s receiver room excited for the future.
Mims wasn’t voted as a preseason All-Big 12 receiver. Those honors went to Texas’ Xavier Worthy, TCU’s Quentin Johnston and Iowa State’s Xavier Hutchinson. And to be clear, that trio is more than worthy of those selections. Mims will more than likely have to do something he’s never done — eclipse 1,000 yards receiving — to earn that distinction when it truly counts at the end of the season.
And with Lebby as his offensive coordinator, his opportunity to do so has never felt as feasible.
Haselwood transferred to Arksansas, Woods declared for the draft and Williams transferred to Southern Cal following the 2021 season.