The Norman Transcript

December 27, 2013

Sooners’ quarterbacks get along in and out of spotlight

By John Shinn
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Every day for the last nine months Oklahoma quarterbacks Trevor Knight and Blake Bell have competed against each other. Some of it was very public and some of it was private. Each wanted to prove on a daily basis he belonged atop the quarterback depth chart.

It’s the kind of relationship capable of breeding a lot of contempt and forcing teammates to take sides.

“I feel like there’s two ways to go with that,” Knight said. “You can either turn against each other or you can make each other better. I feel like me and Blake have gotten a lot closer through this experience and we continue to push each other every day at practice. It’s been good for both of us.”

A full understanding of the ripples a tense relationship between them might cause has been one of the underlying reasons OU’s season didn’t tank in the middle of November.

Both had their shots at starter and both lost the job due to a mixture of injuries and ineffectiveness.

Knight suffered a knee sprain in OU’s second game of the season against West Virginia, but turnovers and inconsistency also played a major part in the change.

Bell played like a seasoned starter until the middle of October. The concussion he suffered in the second quarter of the Iowa State game sent him to the sidelines. But the offense was stagnant prior to his injury.

Perhaps because the Sooners’ offense changes when either is on the field.

The Blake Bell that ran through tackles in 2011 and 2012 is gone. He turned into a true pocket passer this season. If OU has to win by throwing the ball, he’s the guy.

Bell showed that when he led the Sooners’ to that hurry-up 86-yard touchdown drive to win the Bedlam game.

Knight’s presence behind center turns the Sooners into a running team with the ability to attack defenses from multiple angles. He’s averaging 7.1 yards per carry, which is the most among all ball carriers with more than five totes this season.

They both have weaknesses and strengths. But the ability to put their egos aside and pull for the other is something that has greatly helped the Sooners.

“Well, it’s a team game,” Bell said. “A guy like Trevor is always positive and smiling, so it makes it easy. When he’s in there, and going in and letting him know he’s doing a great job, or even when I’m in there, he comes and meets me on the sideline and tells me good job, or what he sees and stuff like that. It’s been fun.”

That will carry over when the 11th-ranked Sooners (10-2) face No. 3 Alabama (11-1) in the Sugar Bowl. OU coach Bob Stoops has declined to name a starting quarterback for the game. That decision gives the impression the competition will continue into the New Year and next season.

Stoops joked that the quarterback depth chart for the Sugar Bowl will be a game-time decision. It won’t, but don’t be surprised if both play. The Sooners have to throw the kitchen sink in terms of offense at Alabama in order to win. Using both gives OU more options.

“Finding who gives us the best chance and the style of offense that gives us the best chance is something we’re gonna continue to work through,” offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said.

Knight and Bell proved this year they can handle being quarterback of the moment without sulking when not. They did not make the starting quarterback job a divisive issue. OU wouldn’t be where they are if they had.

John Shinn

Follow me @john_shinn

jshinn@normantranscript.com

 

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