COLUMN: Bell puts himself at head of quarterback competition during Spring Game
Heather Brown, The Oklahoma Daily
Sooner fans should take the annual Red-White Game with a grain of salt, but they should be encouraged by what they saw from all three quarterbacks Saturday at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.
But it was Bell — who has attempted 20 passes in his two years of service — who was the clear choice as the front-runner for starting quarterback in 2013.
The mobile quarterback — whose “Belldozer" nickname may lose some of its value because he proved during the Spring Game he can throw the ball — made short throws, long throws and throws to both the outside and slot receivers. He did all this while still being able to pick up a few yards on the ground on both designed and impromptu runs.
“All I’ve done is run around here, and I just kind of want to show everyone I can sling it, too,” Bell said. “It’s good knowing you have different options.”
Bell completed 14-of-23 passes for 213 yards and tossed two touchdowns — including a 49-yard touchdown to speedy senior running back Roy Finch — without really coming too close to throwing an interception.
Thompson and Knight held their own and showed they could run this offense once they matured, and they could see some playing time this season.
But that possibility is far from being set in stone.
“As in the past when we’ve been in these situations, we give it time to play out,” coach Bob Stoops said. “Sometimes younger players who haven’t been on the field as much need the summer and snaps in the summer to have an opportunity to catch up.
“Generally you’d like to have more than one (quarterback) that you feel you can win with, so it’ll help the other guys develop,” he said.
The two what-looks-to-be backup quarterbacks combined to complete 59 percent of their passes with two touchdowns — one each — and no interceptions Saturday, although Knight came close to throwing one on a fourth-and-short situation.
The only truly bad moment for any OU quarterback came when Knight fumbled a snap out of the shotgun on his own two-yard line. The fumble resulted in a touchdown return for sophomore linebacker Frank Shannon.
Otherwise, Sooner fans should be happy with what they saw in the latest edition of OU’s quarterback competition and can make a few assumptions about the quarterback situation.
First, Bell should be the starter. He looked the most poised in the pocket and in sync with the offense.
Second, Thompson should be the backup. He made most of the passes he should have but not enough to be given the starting role.
Third, Knight should be third string. He was the only one who made a mistake that could actually cost the Sooners a game — see former OU quarterback Landry Jones’ fumble against Kansas State last season.
Finally, all three of these quarterbacks add dimensions to an offense that in the past made people hold their breath when the quarterback left the pocket.
But the starting quarterback situation was not solved during the Red-White Game. There are still 137 days until opening kickoff against Louisiana-Monroe on Aug. 31, and co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel may have summed up the unfolding competition as succinctly and politically as any coach could.
“When somebody’s earned it, then that’s when we’ll name the guy,” Heupel said.
He said that quote twice to prove a point; and Bell, Thompson and Knight understand that point while being more than happy to be duking it out for the next few months.
“We’re around each other — shoot — seems like 24 hours a day, but we have fun with it,” Bell said. “We know we’re competing — you’re going to compete anywhere you go against anybody at any school in the country — so we’ve got three good guys just competing and having fun with it.”