(Editor's note: With the Sooners set to kick off spring practice on March 5, BH is doing a position-by-position preview. First up, of course, are the guys under center.)
All the scuttlebutt this offseason has been that the Sooners will have a mobile quarterback barking the signals this season. Some fans are excited to see Landry Jones graduate, because he couldn’t dodge defenders.
The most experienced of the group, Drew Allen, is reportedly looking to transfer. The leading candidate, Blake Bell, is the reason for the “Belldozer,” relieving Jones in short-yardage situations – most of the time getting a first down or touchdown.
Word is redshirt freshman Trevor Knight also has some speed. He played the role of Johnny Manziel during Cotton Bowl practices. Kendall Thompson also will get a chance to be in the quarterback derby. He is said to be fast, too. He should be – after all his father, Charles, was a speedy wishbone QB for OU in the late 1980s.
But will Bob Stoops, Josh Heupel and Jay Norvell develop one of these guys’ talents as a dual-threat signal caller in 2013?
Remember, Jason White started out that way. He was elusive when he came in to relieve Nate Hybl against Texas in 2001. White rushed for 117 yards the next week against Kansas. That was the first time in 19 years (102 games) a quarterback cleared the century mark rushing in a game. Steve Collins was the last guy to do it in 1992.
After a couple of knee injuries, White came back to be the starter in 2003, and he was a pure dropback passer. No running all over the field. Of course, he won the Heisman Trophy that year by completing 61 percent of his passes for 3,846 yards with 40 TDs and 10 INTs.
Chuck Long was the guy who developed White into a dropback passer. He was co-offensive coordinator and QB coach from 2000-2005, but he’s no longer around. Well, he has been in Norman watching his son, Zach, play for Norman High. Although Zach is walking on at OU, don’t look for dad to come aboard to develop the next OU QB.
Assuming he's the guy, Bell doesn’t need to be made into a dropback passer. Given how inconsistent the OU running game has been, Stoops, Heupel and Norvell need to help Bell develop his skills as a dual-threat QB. He could wind up being the next Collin Klein, who led Kansas State to a conference championship and finished third in last year’s Heisman voting. Klein completed 65 percent of his passes for 2,641 yards and 16 TDs. He added 920 more yards rushing (4.4 average) and 23 TDs.
At 6-6, 254, Bell is one inch taller and 28 pounds heavier than Klein. If he can come close to Klein’s 2012 numbers, OU could be a strong contender in 2013.
Knight (6-1, 197) and Thompson (6-1, 184), on the other hand, should get a lot of reps during spring practice. Both would need to put on more muscle mass to hold up as running threats in live action.
The decision on who actually starts likely won’t come until coaches see who wins the job in fall camp. Spring ball should go a long way towards helping them make that decision, though.