NORMAN — Former Oklahoma offensive coordinator Chuck Long used to have a grading system for quarterbacks. It was a long list with lots of ways to gain or lose points. Total it up at the end, and that’s the winner.
I don’t know if current OU offensive coordinator Josh Heupel, who was coached by Long in the 2000 season, used a grade sheet when he decided between Blake Bell and Trevor Knight back in August.
It likely wouldn’t have mattered. What Bell has brought to the Sooners in the last two games is hard to put a value on, because it simply isn’t coachable.
Emotional sparks simply don’t come about in that way.
“Blake’s a guy we can all get behind — just like Trevor was. When he has that passion for the game, you know how much it means for him, and you want to fight for him,” OU center Gabe Ikard said of Bell. “As linemen, we love seeing a quarterback showing emotion and showing that he cares. It makes you want to block for him and play harder. When your leader is fired up, it’s always a good thing.”
The Sooners haven’t had a quarterback like that in some time. Even Sam Bradford, who is the gold standard for quarterbacks in the post Barry Switzer era, did not wear his emotions on his sleeve. And just about every quarterback starting with Heupel in the 1999 season has been that way. They played the game with a poker face.
Bell would like to be that way, but he understands the value of external passion.
“I feel like everyone on game day, you’ve got to have a little fire in you,” he said. “Being a quarterback, you have to have that cool. You can’t get too high or too low. There are some times when you have to get the plays going or get the team going. I feel like the guys on the team look at you and see he’s fired up, so we have to get fired up. There’s got to be a happy medium.”
Where that ultimately ends up for Bell remains to be seen. After all, Saturday’s game against TCU will mark just his third career start. A player’s demeanor can change a lot over the course of a season.
OU coach Bob Stoops doesn’t buy that Bell’s fervent spirit has been a key to OU’s success. He points to the turnover-free performances against Tulsa and Notre Dame and the poise Bell has shown in both games.
“I don’t think they rally around anyone. I think it’s having success,” he said. “In the end, Blake has played really well and they’ve played well around him.”
There’s a reason for Stoops’ doubt: admitting to its existence means the success has something to do with something other than determination and focus.
OU’s appeared to play with more of those things in the last two games as well. Credit the quarterback or don’t, but teams and especially offenses take their cues from the quarterback.
The fire Bell has played with has spread.
“It makes you want to compete more,” OU receiver Jalen Saunders said. “It makes you want to out-do what he did. It makes you want to compete. I like Blake a lot, and I like what he’s bringing to the table.”
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