The Norman Transcript

March 27, 2014

Spring has been smoother ride for Knight

By John Shinn
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Oklahoma held one scrimmage before taking time off for spring break. However, getting reps for quarterback Trevor Knight wasn’t an essential part of it.

“We didn’t work much with Trevor in the scrimmage. But the other guys all did a nice job. I’m really pleased with how they’re all progressing. They’ve all looked good,” OU coach Bob Stoops said Tuesday.

Knight is the Sooners’ starter. The depth chart, although not set in stone, is close to locked in with redshirt freshman Cody Thomas at No. 2 and true freshman Justice Hansen at No. 3. Texas Tech transfer Baker Mayfield is participating in spring practice, but he will not be eligible to play until the 2015 season.

Knight solidified himself in the No. 1 spot with his performance in the Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama. Still, he’s adjusting to the absence of a day-to-day competition with Blake Bell, who is now playing tight end, for the job.

“It’s definitely a little bit different atmosphere nowadays but I want to be out there competing as much as I can,” Knight said. “I know I’ve got a long way to go. Last season, obviously, I wasn’t the guy all year long, so I’m pushing to be the guy every day this year.”

As far as the other quarterbacks go, Stoops said they’re progressing at acceptable rates.

“Justice, obviously, coming right from high school has the biggest adjustment. But he’s really a talented guy with his arm and how he works. Baker has looked really good. You can tell he’s played. It’s obvious when you watch him out there. He’s comfortable and makes plays. And Cody has been really good. We’re really excited about what he’s doing,” he said. “So they’ve all looked good. And Trevor looked good out there today. We got him in some more team sessions and he was really good.”

Getting ahead: Last spring OU was still running a 4-3 defense. The shift to a 3-4 alignment didn’t hit full stride until preseason practice began.

“We’re lightyears ahead of a year ago. A year ago we weren’t even in our system yet at this time. Now we’re not only in it, we’ve expanded it and smoothed and polished it out,” Stoops said.

The ironing process means figuring out ways to better utilize outside linebacker Eric Striker and nickelback Julian Wilson. The goal is to get Striker, who recorded 6 1/2 sacks last season, in more pass rushing situations, and Wilson, one of OU’s best defensive backs, more in pass coverage.

Those are aspects of the scheme defensive coordinator Mike Stoops and the defensive staff have studied in the offseason.

“We’re starting to, I feel with Mike and our defensive coaches, get our guys in the best spots,” Bob Stoops said. “I think it will really help us.”

Numbers game: Knight played in eight games last season. But he only threw for 819 yards, including the 348-yard performance in the Sugar Bowl.

On Tuesday, he said he’d like to throw for more yards in 2014, but he did not have a definite goal.

“This place has been known for their passing game, and that’s what we still want to be known for but with adding the QB run game, it kind of changes the dynamic,” he said. “Last year was the first year we had that in so things changed a little bit. The dynamic’s changing a little bit now that we’ve got some guys that can pull the ball down and run. We still want to get our passing yards but I think it’s just opened it up a little bit more for us.”

Knight averaged 6.6 yards per carry and OU averaged more than 5.2 yards per carry last season.

All eyes on Shepard: One Sugar Bowl performance that flew a bit under the radar was wide receiver Sterling Shepard’s two-touchdown, 81-all-purpose-yards effort.

Stoops believes Shepard will enter the 2014 as an offensive focal point.

“He’s really emerged as a really strong leader for us on offense, definitely. Consistent. He’s had a great winter, the way he’s worked, pushing other guys,” Stoops said. “He’s going to be a guy we definitely have to really focus on and find different ways to keep getting him the ball more, which is obvious to everyone. He’s been great.”

John Shinn

Follow me @john_shinn

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