Tahlequah Daily Press

OU Sports

August 4, 2013

OU coaches still mum on starting QB

NORMAN — The opportunity to name Oklahoma’s starting quarterback came and went Saturday. OU conducted its Media Day at Owen Field. Head coach Bob Stoops and co-offensive Josh Heupel had clear shots to name “the guy” for the 2013 season.

Both passed, sticking with what’s become a tradition for the Sooners. Without an established starter, the job must be earned throughout the preseason. It’s the way Sam Bradford won the job. Good enough for him, good enough for junior Blake Bell or redshirt freshman Trevor Knight.

“When we chose Sam Bradford, they knew seven days before kickoff, basically. That worked out pretty well. Whenever the guy earns the job, that's when we'll name a guy,” Heupel said. “I think the way that all of our guys at that position have approached everything that they do on and off the field, in the meeting room, the way that they compete in the weight room, their discipline, their toughness, their approach. They have the respect of everybody on our football team. Whoever ends up being the guy, I think our guys are going to have a lot of confidence in him.”

They’ll only have confidence in the guy that leads the Sooners to victories. In that sense, only Bell has done any on-the-field inspiring. He’s never thrown a touchdown pass, but the 24 touchdowns he’s scored over the previous two seasons carry weight.

But Bell has always tried to carry himself like he was the catalysts for the Sooners’ offense. Jones still threw the passes, but Bell believed his time to run the offense was coming.

Jones played his final game in January. Since then, Bell has known this is him time to take the reins. No longer was he working with the second-team receivers in seven-on-seven drills.

“One of the biggest ways it’s been different for me is Landry being gone,” Bell said. “He’s usually been taking the No. 1s and me, Drew, Trevor and Kendal have been taking the twos and threes. This time it’s been odd because now it’s us. We take control.”

OU’s coaches haven’t talked about which quarterbacks are getting what reps in practice. Obviously, the foot injury to Thompson, which will have him on the mend for all of training camp, has created an even bigger opportunity for Bell and Knight. Every play — and there are hundreds during a training camp practice — is chance to make a quality impression.

“It opens it up a little bit,” Knight said. “We’d obviously like to have him out there. He pushes us and he’s a great guy to be around. But, yeah, with two guys out there — and (true freshman Cody Thomas) is taking some good reps as well — but it opens things up a little bit and it’s always good to get more reps in the offense; that will make anybody better.”

At some point, one of them will reach the level of the starter. It’s not an easy bar to get over. Heupel said Saturday that OU’s quarterback will be expected to play at a “championship” level when he steps onto Owen Field Aug. 31 in the season opener against Louisiana-Monroe. The idea of learning curve isn’t part of the decision-making process.

When that determination will be comes down to feel by the coaching staff.

“Don’t have a target date,” Stoops said. “Again, I go back, this isn’t anything new to us. I know you don’t want to hear it (but) we’ve won eight Big 12 championships with six different quarterbacks. Not one or two: six. Our method of doing it has been fairly successful and we feel good about what these guys are doing. We’ll keep bring them along the way we feel we need.”

But this is a rare time. Not since Bradford beat out Joey Halze and Keith Nichol in 2007 has there been a true competition for the starting job.

Jones was the only option when Bradford was injured in 2009. Paul Thompson assumed the position when Rhett Bomar was kicked off the team right before training camp began in 2006. Nate Hybl got the starting job in 2002 when Jason White was hurt early in the season. Heupel had the offense handed to him when he signed with OU in February of 1999.

The quarterback torch never seems to pass the same way twice. The Sooner quarterbacks are OK with the process.

“We are all getting even reps. All we can do is go out there and show the coaches what we have individually,” Bell said. “All of us quarterbacks, we feel like we’re thinking the same thing and showing the coaches what we can do when we’re out there.”

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