OU's Bell growing up to win Sooner QB job

April, 24, 2013
4/24/13
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During a simulated scrimmage in Oklahoma's first practice of the spring in full pads, Blake Bell used his BellDozing legs to escape the pocket, but the right-hander was rolling to his left to escape the rush.

Bell, channeling his inner Brett Favre, tried to find a receiver on the right side of the field, throwing across his body to try and make the throw. The toss predictably floated and was intercepted.

"He just shook his head," Sooners coach Bob Stoops said. "A classic example where it has sting a little bit and you’ve got to learn. Hopefully he’s learned a valuable lesson since then, that you can’t be careless with the football."

That's the bad news.

The good news is Stoops has seen plenty of evidence to suggest Bell absolutely learned his lesson from that early throw. The proof was in every throw from that point forward.

"Since that day, you haven’t seen a mistake like that," Stoops said. "Just being smart with the football is such a big deal."

In fact, it's the biggest deal for Stoops. For a yet-undecided quarterback competition, Bell's ability to take care of the ball bodes well for him keeping his status as the likely heir to four-year starter Landry Jones.

"The important part for all of them will be decision-making," Stoops said. "Who can make the right reads and decisions and getting the football where it needs to be."

He outplayed his younger competition, Trevor Knight and Kendal Thompson, in the Sooners' spring game, completing 14-of-23 passes for 213 yards and a pair of scores, validating a strong spring that left him looking like the Sooners' best option. Most importantly, he didn't turn the ball over, and both Knight and Thompson couldn't say that after the Sooners' spring finale.

Those 213 passing yards are one short of doubling Bell's total passing yards in 2012, but most college football fans know him best as the BellDozer, bulling his way to 24 rushing touchdowns over the past two seasons in the Sooners' signature short-yardage package.

"He’s always been able to throw the football well, we’ve just chosen his role to this point has been short yardage and goal line, getting the extra blocker when you’re running your quarterback," Stoops said. "Plus, he’s a big strong guy to fall forward and get a yard when there isn’t one there. He throws a great deep ball."

Oklahoma's rarely employed a mobile quarterback, but that seems likely to change this season as the Sooners' personnel no longer fits the statuesque style of Jones or predecessors like Heisman Trophy winners Sam Bradford and Jason White who helped Oklahoma win eight Big 12 titles since Stoops' arrival.

"All our guys, when we recruit them, it’s all about how they throw, not how they run. We’re just fortunate that this group of guys, along with throwing the football, have the ability to run, too," Stoops said. "We’ll see what that other dimension can do for us."

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