CNHI News Services
Blake Bell might not want to despair too much about losing the Oklahoma starting quarterback battle to redshirt freshman Trevor Knight.
The choice of Knight is a prime example of why it is best to never assume in college football.
Many felt Bell was a lock for the job because of his experience running the “Belldozer’’ the past two seasons.
He appeared to have an edge over Knight during the Sooners’ spring game. But that was the only time the public got to see the two quarterbacks head-to-head.
Spring and fall practices these days almost have as much security as the development of the atomic bomb. It looks like OU coach Bob Stoops and offensive coordinator Josh Heupel were shooting straight when they said they would name a starter after someone earned the job.
History tells us the starter on opening day may not necessarily be the man at the end of the season. Three times in the Stoops era — Jason White (2001 and 2002) and Sam Bradford (2009) a starting quarterback has gone down for the season with an injury.
White was beaten out by Nate Hybl before the 2001 season, but took over the job after spelling Hybl twice (Texas and Kansas) during the season. White’s season, though, would end with a knee injury against Nebraska.
Ditto for 2002 when Hybl replaced White after White tore an ACL against Alabama.
In 2005, a similar situation to 2013, fourth-year junior Paul Thompson got the nod over heralded redshirt freshman Rhett Bomar.
Thompson, on his first play from scrimmage in the opener against TCU, overthrew a wide-open receiver. Bomar would be the starter for Game 2 and led the Sooners to a Holiday Bowl win over Oregon.
But Bomar ran afoul of NCAA rules (taking money for work he didn’t do) and was dismissed from the team a day before practice started in 2006. Thompson came in to lead the Sooners to the Big 12 title.
And remember that in 2007 Bradford suffered a concussion and missed the final three quarters of a loss at Texas Tech.
Bell need only look at Enid’s Clint Chelf as why he should stick with it for at least 2013. Chelf started last season as Oklahoma State’s No. 3 quarterback, and admitted he thought of quitting. Thanks to injuries, he got the starting job and ended up as a bowl game MVP. Bell, a fourth-year junior, would have some options if he can graduate next spring. Under NCAA rules, he could transfer to another school in that scenario and be immediately eligible.
There’s no guarantee,of course, that Bell would get his shot. OU coaches have a pretty good history of choosing the right quarterback (eight conference titles with six different quarterbacks).
Take 2003 when White, coming off the two knee surgeries, was battling Brent Rawls, another hot-shot recruit. White would be named the starter in June and take OU to the national championship game twice, winning the Heisman as a junior. Rawls never played a down at OU.
Knight drew high praise last year on the scout team. He was treated on the same level as Bell as far as access to the press was concerned. His mobility gives OU a different offensive look than it’s had under Stoops.
Knight is in position to be a fourth-year starter a la Landry Jones. If he breaks’ Jones career victories as a Sooner quarterback ... it will go down as a wise choice.
If OU struggles, Bell might be the most popular man in town.
Knight will have some struggles, especially with some difficult road games (Notre Dame, OSU, etc.). Bradford, Jones and Bomar had their struggles, but also had their successes. Only history will judge Knight.