Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - For four seasons, Landry Jones provided
stability at the quarterback position for the Oklahoma Sooners, finishing his
storied career ranked third in FBS history in passing yards (16,646) and fifth
in passing touchdowns (123), while winning three bowl games.
However, after Jones was selected in the fourth round of last week's NFL Draft
to potentially be the heir apparent to the Pittsburgh Steelers' Ben
Roethlisberger, the Sooners are left with a void under center.
The good news for the program is that Bob Stoops, who's approaching his 15th
season as the Sooners' head coach, has had plenty of experience turning over
elite play at the position, churning out All-American gun-slingers like Sam
Bradford, Jason White and current OU co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel, in
addition to Jones.
Whether or not the next great Oklahoma quarterback is on the current roster
remains to be seen, but in the early stages of the offseason, the three-horse
race appears to be extremely tight.
The candidates - Blake Bell (junior), Kendal Thompson (sophomore) and Trevor
Knight (freshman) - have all redshirted a year during the Jones regime. Each
had his chance to showcase his skills in front of more than 29,000 eager fans
during the team's April 13 spring game, and all three were able to make a
strong case for the starting gig.
Bell, the only quarterback on the roster with any real game experience (10-
of-20, 107 yards, INT during career), garnered the most snaps and finished the
game 14-of-23 for 213 yards and a pair of touchdowns, although he was sacked
four times for negative-33 yards.
"Overall I though I made some good plays and was pretty accurate with the
ball." Bell said of his performance. "I had some throwaways, and I can always
get better in a lot of areas."
At an imposing 6-foot-6 and 263 pounds, Bell, despite being surprisingly
mobile, fits into the typical Stoops mold at quarterback as a big, sturdy,
strong-armed pocket passer, but in the ever-changing landscape of major
college football, where spread offenses and mobile signal-callers are becoming
more and more in demand, the program could look to make a switch in its style
Thompson and Knight, both of whom stand at a modest 6-foot-1, each possess the
dual-threat ability to bring a new facet to the offense. Thompson finished the
spring game completing 11-of-17 passes for 151 yards and a touchdown, while
also rushing for 36 yards. Knight wasn't nearly as efficient with his pass
attempts (8-of-15, 86 yards), but he also made things happen with his legs,
picking up 35 yards on the ground.
Rushing output at the quarterback position has been non-existent for the
Sooners in recent years - Jones finished his career with an eye-popping
negative-375 rushing yards - so the prospect of having an extra dimension on
offense certainly excites the coaching staff.
"Those guys did a good job at times stepping up in the pocket and getting out
of it and making a play," Heupel said. "(The offense) will be different. Our
guys will take off a little more than Landry probably did during the course of
the game or season."
Oklahoma's decision on who will be calling plays when the 2013 season opens up
at home against ULM on Aug. 31 is still a ways off, as Stoops and Heupel have
stated that the competition will remain open well into the summer months. Much
of the staff's decision will be riding on what kind of offensive game plan
they will be implementing, but they have made it very clear to each of the
candidates that, while the competition will be tight, the most important thing
is having your competitor's back through the entire process, trusting that the
final call will ultimately be what's best for the team.
"All three of us are around each other for, it seems like, 24 hours a day,"
Bell said. "We know we're competing but you're going to be competing at any
school in the country. We have three good guys just competing and having fun
with it and we're all just going to work hard each and every day, and that's
all we can do."
"Like Coach Heupel's been saying, the guy that makes the least mistakes is the
guy who's going to lead the team," Knight added. "All three of us are going to
push forward. We have fun together and we're friends, (but) I'm going to work
my hardest in the summer and into fall camp and see where we end up."
Stoops is without question one of the top coaches in college football,
overcoming significant position turnover year after year to win greater than
80 percent of his games (149-37), and with his history of smart decisions in
terms of his quarterback, he has proven himself to be one of the most
qualified men in the nation to be making this decision. So no matter who the
Sooners' go with, expect the team, as usual, to be in the thick of things in
the Big 12 Conference this fall.
The Sports Network