By JOHN SHINN
NORMAN — Oklahoma’s quarterback battle ended early Thursday evening with an outcome few saw coming as little as three weeks ago. Redshirt freshman Trevor Knight will start the season opener next Saturday against Louisiana-Monroe.
The announcement came following the Sooners’ practice Thursday afternoon. Knight won the job after a three-week competition with junior Blake Bell.
“Both Trevor and Blake have competed hard and both will be ready to play against Louisiana-Monroe,” Stoops said in a statement. “Like every other position on our team, I expect them both to continue competing for the starting job.”
Stoops said earlier this week OU wanted to get both quarterbacks prepared to start because the position will be heavily involved in the run game this season — a massive departure from the previous 14 years of OU football.
The coach also said there was never a plan in place for how the team would be informed of whom the starting quarterback would be. They could just figure it out by seeing who was getting the reps with the first team.
Two sources close to the program told The Transcript those first-team reps all went to Knight on Wednesday and Thursday, signaling a decision had been made.
All of the Sooners’ practices have been closed from the public. The last time they were in an open setting was April’s spring game. At that time, Bell, who has scored 24 touchdowns the last two seasons playing quarterback in short-yardage situations, appeared to have a massive lead in the derby with Knight and Kendal Thompson.
Thompson suffered a foot injury on the opening day of preseason practice and isn’t expected to return to the practice field until next month.
Apparently, Knight used the last three weeks to seize control of the race.
None of the Sooners’ quarterbacks or assistant coaches have spoken to reporters since Aug. 3. News about the quarterback competition was scarce.
However, Knight believed at the beginning of preseason practice that he had a legitimate chance to win the job.
“Coach (Josh) Heupel has said from the beginning that it’s an open competition,” he said. “Even if it wasn’t an open competition, he still wants us to prepare every day like we’re the starter. So, I take every day like I’m the starter and go out and compete the best I can.”
Teammates have raved about Knight since he arrived on campus last year. He was a four-star recruit from San Antonio’s Reagan High School but spent last year running the scout team.
Knight’s stock soared when OU started preparing to face Texas A&M in the AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic. Knight was able to replicate Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel.
The Texas A&M quarterback shredded the Sooners in the bowl game. Employing a quarterback who could run as well as throw became a priority for the Sooners in the aftermath.
According to teammates, Knight has that kind of ability.
“He’s the most athletic of the three. He puts up crazy numbers in the weight room with the agility and speed stuff. It probably has a lot to do with it,” OU center Gabe Ikard said last month at Big 12 Media Days. “He’s very good at throwing on the run. He makes quick decisions and is a smart football player. He’s very dedicated to learning the game when it comes to the film room and stuff like that.
“Whether he’s playing now or later, he has a bright future ahead of him. He’s a very talented athlete and a great guy.”
The future for Knight is apparently now. He’ll be the first quarterback to start a game other than Landry Jones since Sam Bradford played in his final game on Oct. 17, 2009.
What Thursday’s decision means for Bell, who spent the 2011 and 2012 seeming to be the Sooners’ quarterback in waiting, is unclear. Stoops hasn’t said whether the short-yardage package that made him an integral part of the Sooners’ offense will remain.
Knight is a gifted runner and with Thompson still injured, OU’s third-string quarterback for the opener will be true freshman Cody Thompson.