NORMAN — Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops realizes he’ll eventually have to choose a starting quarterback. He’s still not quite ready to make that decision.
The first question to Stoops after Monday’s practice — as it has been for most of the last month — was whether he was ready to name a starter between Blake Bell and Trevor Knight. He gave a one-word answer: “Nope.”
No. 16 Oklahoma will open its season Aug. 31 at home against Louisiana-Monroe and Stoops hinted that he might name the starter for that game by Friday, which would end the first all-out battle for the starting quarterback position since Sam Bradford emerged from a three-way competition in 2007.
“I want to have a few more practices,” Stoops said. “Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. So, when we’re ready, we’ll say so.”
Bell and Knight have, by all accounts, waged a spirited battle for the job during preseason practice. Bell, a junior, has the edge in playing experience, although most of that came as part of Oklahoma’s “Belldozer” run package last season. Knight redshirted as a freshman last season.
There had been a third man in the competition, sophomore Kendal Thompson, before he suffered a fractured foot on the first day of preseason drills.
Stoops has revealed little about the competition and given no hints about who might be emerging as the starter. He reiterated Monday that he hasn’t even ruled out Thompson again battling for playing time once his injury heals.
“They’re mentally tough guys who work hard, as is Kendall,” Stoops said. “I’m confident Kendal will work his way back into being a guy that we’ll really like as well, once he’s able to get back on the field.”
Stoops’ players hewed to the party line on Monday, saying nothing that offered a hint about which way they think the coaches might be leaning. Starting center Gabe Ikard told reporters “you know as much as I do” when asked about the quarterback situation.
“It’s one of those things where both those guys are battling hard for that job,” Ikard said. “I’m no quarterback coach, I’m no offensive coordinator. I don’t know what they’re looking at so when the decision is made, we’ll roll with it and no matter who it is, we’ll put a good 11 on the field and we’ll be ready to go.”
Ikard did allow that the competition has brought out the best in both Bell and Knight and that “it’s really good to see how they’re pushing one another for that spot.” But Ikard said the offensive linemen won’t change the way they play, no matter who sees the majority of the snaps.
“We’ve got to play the same effort and (with) great technique so we’re not terribly worried about it not being a familiar face back there,” he said. “We just know it’s on us to make that person comfortable so that’s what we’re about.
“We’ll all be relieved and happy for that guy. Whoever doesn’t get the starting job, we know they are a play away from being that guy. Both of those guys continue to work hard and push each other. They have to be interchangeable as quarterbacks when it comes to first team and second team. Both of those guys are plenty talented to be a starting quarterback. The decision is out of the players’ hands. We’ll let the coaches do that and roll with it.”