The Norman Transcript

September 11, 2013

Sooners fortunately flexible at quarterback

By John Shinn
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Oklahoma’s already in a scenario that it’s spent the last six months preparing for — an injured quarterback.

OU coach Bob Stoops was quick to say Monday the bruised knee Trevor Knight suffered against West Virginia wasn’t the main reason Blake Bell will start Saturday against Tulsa. They want more production and better decisions in the passing game.

But OU knew quarterback injuries were more likely with the position being involved in the run game more than it ever has under Stoops.

“More hits, more opportunities for that certainly,” offensive coordinate Josh Heupel said Tuesday night. “We try to do a really good job of educating and letting our quarterbacks understand that they can’t take hits. He took one that caught up with him. I’ve said this from the very beginning to all those guys — the strength of that position is going to have to be the group. I would say that every year, but it’s certainly true this year with an injury.”

Knight won’t be available for the game. He won’t practice this week due to the injury. Kendal Thompson will be Bell’s backup.

Nonetheless, Heupel said a shrinking depth chart at the position will not affect the play calling.

“We try to make sure we only run them when we feel like we need to,” he said. “We want to put them in situations where they are not taking big hits, but quarterback runs are going to be part of what these guys do.”

Colvin still out: Cornerback Aaron Colvin was held out of practice again Tuesday. The senior was kicked in the jaw in last Saturday’s win against West Virginia and had dental work performed Monday.

Monday, defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said he expects Colvin to be available for the Tulsa game, but did not know when he would return to practice.

Disruptive defensive line: In August, Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops believed success hinged on the play of the defensive line. Playmakers had to develop in the group. After two games, he likes what he’s seeing from defensive ends Charles Tapper and Geneo Grissom and nose guard Jordan Phillips.

“I thought Jordan Phillips was very disruptive for the most part all day on Saturday,” Stoops said. “Getting him to understand if we can be over the nose like that, that creates a lot of problems for the offense getting up to the next level and keeps our linebackers clean.

“I thought him and Charles Tapper were really good and Geneo gets better every time he steps on the field. They are starting to be playmakers for us.”

Speed is the key: One of the biggest keys to Oklahoma’s defensive success apparently came from some offseason speed training.

“I think we’re also faster at every position than a year ago. That matters,” OU coach Bob Stoops said.

It’s been especially important in the secondary, where cornerback left Aaron Colvin is the only returning starter.

Right cornerback Zack Sanchez said developing more speed was an emphasis since the 2012 ended.

“We had a really good summer this year,” Sanchez said. “(Strength and conditioning coach Jerry Schmidt) can account for that. We put in a lot of work this summer. We knew what we had to do coming into the season and we knew we were going to have to put in a lot of work to be the defense that we wanted to.”

Feeling the pain: Oklahoma doesn’t publish an injury report and very few college teams do. The obvious reason is coaches don’t want opponents knowing which players are at less than 100 percent.

But Sooner running back Brennan Clay said it’s something fans might want to consider when they’re getting on players.

“I can say this for myself, a lot of people probably didn’t know I was injured in my sophomore and junior year. They kind of knew, but they didn’t, and it’s tough. It’s nagging on you,” he said. “You’re thinking about that constantly in the back of your mind. So it’s really rough for, I will say personally, when people are beating down on you and they don’t know how your body feels. They don’t understand how it feels to play a 12-game season in college football. It’s rough and it’s hard and not many people do it. So I think that it’s really rough.”