The Norman Transcript

March 10, 2013

Speed adds new element to spring QB competition

By John Shinn
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — The derby to become Oklahoma’s next starting quarterback officially started Saturday with the Sooners’ first practice of the spring. The workout was junior Blake Bell’s, sophomore Kendal Thompson’s and redshirt freshman Trevor Knight’s initial opportunity to prove which is the successor to Landry Jones.

However, the one thing made clear by Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops and offensive coordinator Josh Heupel is that winning the job is going to be a tedious process.

“We’re gonna name a guy when he’s earned it. That’s what we’ve always done here,” Heupel said this week. “That position is extremely important, I think, for that guy to go out and earn that position, earn the confidence of the guys around him. Earn the trust of the people around him so he can ultimately lead that group, that offense, in the way that we want him to.”

Trust will be what ultimately decides who takes the reins of the Sooners’ offense. The race between Bell, Thompson and Knight is distinct among past offseason competitions for quarterbacks in that this one will come as the offense is being retooled to take advantage of the group’s running ability.

All three have the ability to pick up first downs with their feet in ways Jones never could have imagined. Bell, who is the front-runner to get the job, has already proven it over the last two seasons. He’s already rushed for 24 touchdowns, using his 6-foot-6, 263-pound frame.

Neither Thompson or Knight have played an official game, but have displayed elusive running ability going all the way back to high school.

In one form or another this is crucial the Sooners’ offense.

“To a degree it will be,” OU coach Bob Stoops said. “We’ll do our best not to give away exactly how we want to do it but in the end, there will be a little bit of that, for sure.”

The Sooners saw last season just how hard it was to defend quarterbacks who could run. All three losses in 2012 — Kansas State, Notre Dame and Texas A&M — were against teams who had quarterbacks capable of running the ball.

How much OU will mirror that is something fans and opponents can ponder for the next seven months. All of the practices are closed. Only the Red/White Game on April 13 is viewable. Stoops and his staff usually keep the play-calling as vanilla as possible in the game.

Of course, that doesn’t mean the Sooners will shift the offense to a run-heavy scheme either. The ability to complete passes downfield will be at the top of the grade sheet.

“We will never give up anything as far as our quarterbacks having the ability to pass — that’s our primary focus first,” Heupel said. “We have great skill guys, and we want to make sure we’re able to distribute the ball to those guys.

“But certainly, the guys we have on campus are a little bit different than Landry with their ability to extend and make plays with their feet. How many times we’ll have designed play calls for them I can’t tell you right now, but certainly that’s something we’ll probably look at in the spring.”

John Shinn

Follow me @john_shinn

jshinn@normantranscript.com

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