The Norman Transcript

November 14, 2013

QB decisions only get harder


The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — This week, Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops was asked if Blake Bell had done enough to be starting quarterback beyond this season.

“There’s no way to answer that question now. That doesn’t make any sense for me to answer that with three games and a bowl game left,” Stoops said.

The coach is right. Bell, who will make his eighth career start Saturday when the Sooners host Iowa State, hasn’t done nearly enough to say he will be the quarterback next season.

And that creates a massive dilemma at the quarterback position that seems to have no resolution in sight.

OU currently has four scholarship quarterbacks. Bell is joined by sophomore Kendal Thompson, redshirt freshman Trevor Knight and true freshman Cody Thomas, who is redshirting this season. The number will grow to five when Justice Hansen — the four-star recruit from Edmond Santa Fe — joins the fold either in the spring or the summer.

That’s five quarterbacks without a tried and true incumbent starter or a defined pecking order. In other words, OU has a mess on its hands.

How the Sooners and offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Josh Heupel go about cleaning it up is anyone’s guess.

Based on the production of the spot this season, it won’t be easy. The quarterback-run game that was a preseason emphasis hasn’t amounted to much. As passers, the spot has clearly regressed from what Landry Jones was able to produce the previous four seasons.

The lack of production throwing the ball is clearly Heupel’s top concern.

“We’re not throwing it the way we are capable of and the way we need to win championships here,” he said.

It’s what ultimately cost Knight the job.

He started the first two games. Those calling for his return remember his ability to run. Knight has rushed for 186 yards over three games and averages 6.9 yards per carry. But it’s hard to ignore that 44.9 percent completion percentage or those two interceptions that ultimately got him benched in the fourth quarter of the West Virginia game.

But he won the designed competition in August. Clearly that test wasn’t stringent enough to produce a game-ready quarterback.

Thompson still hasn’t seen the field in his two seasons since redshirting. OU’s coaches were adamant that they wanted a three-man race for the starting job in the preseason. A foot injury two days into preseason practice wrecked those prospects.

Why not play Thompson now just to see what he can do?

“I’m not gonna sit here and make wholesale changes in the ninth game of the year when we’ve done some awfully good things through the year. Kendal has done an awesome job. We love what he’s doing. He’s got a bright future. It’s just hard to overcome the initial way he started. It’s no one’s fault that he was injured and he missed 40 practices to start the year,” Stoops said. “Are we gonna go experiment now and find out? I don’t know that that’s the case. He’s doing everything. He’s a wonderful young man with a bright future and a talented guy.”

The congestion OU is on its way to experiencing at the quarterback spot almost demands giving Thompson a shot. OU may not definitively know who its quarterback of the future will be, but the coaching staff must start ruling at least one, and perhaps two, out.

Hansen figures to spend next season running the scout team. The coaching staff has sung Thomas’ praises since he arrived on campus. His slate is clean, and he will compete for the job next season.

That leaves Bell, Thompson and Knight. Two have shown what they can do in games. Only Thompson hasn’t been given the opportunity.

There’s still three regular-season games and a bowl game left in the 2013 season. The Sooners have stuck with Bell because they’ve seen enough positive to believe there’s room to build with him, but not enough to say the job is on anything more than a week-to-week basis.

Some tough decisions have to be made.

John Shinn

Follow me @john_shinn

jshinn@normantranscript.com

Breaking news, severe weather alerts, AMBER alerts, sports scores from The Norman Transcript are available as text messages right to your phone or mobile device. You decide which type of alerts you want to receive. Find out more or to signup, click here.