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Monday, March 19, 2012
Position battle update: Backup QB

By Jake Trotter

While the Sooners are on spring break this week, SoonerNation will update readers on five position battles this spring. For today: Backup quarterback.

The reality of this position battle is that it won't be decided in earnest until at least next spring, after Landry Jones leaves campus. Still, Drew Allen, Blake Bell and even Kendal Thompson are using this spring to jockey for position for what will be OU’s first quarterback derby since 2007.

Blake Bell
Oklahoma's Blake Bell attempted just four passes in 2011, but could be asked to do more this season.
Bell still hasn’t passed Allen on the depth chart, but he figures to play more again next season out of the Belldozer. That experience alone won’t assure him of the winning the starting job. The Belldozer will never be OU’s base offense. But experience on the field doesn’t hurt, either.

Curiously per what is believed to be at Josh Heupel’s behest, neither quarterback has been made available for interviews (other than Bell after his MVP performance in the Insight Bowl) since the Sooners unleashed the Belldozer (The assumption is that the Sooners don’t want Bellsanity from getting out of hand). So it’s been difficult to gather how each quarterback feels he has progressed, or what he feels he needs to work on.

What’s clear is that Bell still has work to do with his passing and in nailing down the nuances of the base offense. And while it might be tempting to tinker with Bell’s position -- he’s worked some at tight end this spring for numbers reasons -- to maximize those power wheels, the Sooners still view Bell’s future at quarterback.

“We do have great faith in Blake throwing the football,” Bob Stoops said at the advent of spring drills. “We wouldn’t have signed him if we didn’t like how he throws the ball. He’ll continue to develop in the other ways outside of that package, and he’s doing a great job with it.”

Allen, however, shouldn’t be overlooked. He’s the most comfortable with the system of any of the other quarterbacks, and really showed improvement in his passing last spring. And by starting Allen, the Sooners could still utilize Bell the way they did last season (conversely if Bell started, Allen would likely be out).

The wildcard in the QB derby is Thompson, who is the most athletic quarterback on campus. Bell runs like a fullback. Thompson, a halfback. Thompson may be too far behind to make a serious run at the starting job next year, but he has some talents that shouldn’t be discounted.

The 2007 QB battle wasn’t determined until Sam Bradford was finally named the starter over Keith Nichol and Joey Halzle after OU’s second fall scrimmage. The 2013 derby could wind up being even tighter.