Oklahoma Sooners: Trevor Knight
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsQuarterback Kendal Thompson completed 8 of 15 passes for 86 yards and a touchdown in OU's spring game last month.
Thompson, 20, was arrested at about 2:15 a.m. after police responded to a loud party call. As they approached the apartment complex where the party was, police noticed Thompson passed out on a nearby hill. According to police, Thompson's "speech was very slow" and "not making sense with incomplete sentences."
Police said Thompson also continually tried to walk away, and at one point fell to his left into a cement barrier while trying to do so. After that, police said Thompson got up with his left hand in his pocket and refused to take out it despite several commands to do so. After a "struggle," police took Thompson into custody, and booked him into the Cleveland County Sherriff's Office.
Thompson, the son of former Oklahoma quarterback Charles Thompson, is battling Blake Bell and Trevor Knightfor the Sooners' starting quarterback job. Thompson completed 8 of 15 passes for 86 yards and a touchdown in OU's spring game last month.
An OU spokesman said the school was aware of the matter and is handling it internally.
No. 9 Trevor Knight
Quarterback, 6-foot-1, 202 pounds, redshirt freshman
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2012 record: 10-3
2012 conference record: 8-1 (tied for first, Big 12)
Returning starters: Offense: 7; defense: 4; kicker/punter: 1
RB Damien Williams, FB Trey Millard, WR Jalen Saunders, WR Sterling Shepard, C Gabe Ikard, DE/DT Chuka Ndulue, LB Corey Nelson, CB Aaron Colvin
QB Landry Jones, WR Justin Brown, WR Kenny Stills, OT Lane Johnson, DE David King, CB Demontre Hurst, FS Tony Jefferson, SS Javon Harris
2012 statistical leaders (*returners)
Rushing: Damien Williams* (946 yards)
Passing: Landry Jones (4,267yards)
Receiving: Kenny Stills (959 yards)
Tackles: Tony Jefferson (119)
Sacks: Chuka Ndulue* (5)
Interceptions: Javon Harris (6)
1. Playmakers abound: The Sooners might have lost leading receivers Kenny Stills and Justin Brown, but there’s plenty of firepower back to support whoever wins the starting quarterback job. Jalen Saunders was actually Oklahoma’s most efficient receiver the second half of last season and seems primed to take over as the go-to target. The Sooners also have several talented up-and-coming receivers who had good springs, led by slot extraordinaire Sterling Shepard. The backfield is even deeper, with leading rushers Damien Williams and Brennan Clay back, to go along with Trey Millard, one of the top all-around fullbacks in the country.
2. Cortez will flank Colvin: The secondary was decimated by graduation and Tony Jefferson’s early entry into the NFL draft. One of those voids was cornerback, where Demontre Hurst had started the previous years. That void at least, however, appears to have been filled. Arizona transfer Cortez Johnson seized the job from the first day of spring drills, and has given the Sooners every indication to believe they’ll have a big, physical corner to pair with All-American candidate Aaron Colvin in the fall.
3. The linebackers will play: In a desperate move to slow down the high-powered passing attacks of the Big 12, defensive coordinator Mike Stoops pulled his linebackers off the field. The plan backfired, as opposing offenses ran at will over the linebacker-less Sooners. This spring, Stoops has renewed his commitment to the linebacker, which, ironically, could be the strength of the defense. Corey Nelson, Frank Shannon and Aaron Franklin are all athletic and capable of generating negative plays, something Oklahoma’s defense sorely lacked last season.
1. Who the QB will be in October: Bob Stoops said he would wait until the fall before naming a starter, and so far, he’s made good on his word. Junior Blake Bell took a lead in the competition during the spring, as expected. But sophomore Kendal Thompson and redshirt freshman Trevor Knight, who both got equal reps as Bell, played well at times, too. It’s hard to see Bell not starting the first game. But if he struggles against a tough September schedule, it’s not unthinkable one of the younger QBs would be given a shot.
2. How the new offense will fare: Looking to utilize the skill sets of their mobile quarterbacks, the Sooners will be running a very different offense from the one Sam Bradford and Landry Jones both operated. Offensive coordinator Josh Heupel kept most of these new plays - including loads of read option -- in his hip pocket during the spring game. But it will be interesting to see how the Sooners -- and just as important, opposing defenses -- adjust to this new era of offense in Norman.
3. Defensive line play: The Sooners went into spring ball with just three defensive tackles on the roster, and little experience at defensive end. The unit showed strides during the spring, with Chuka Ndulue making a smooth transition from end to tackle, and tackle Jordan Phillips coming up big in the spring game. But that was the spring. The defensive line will have to continue to grow rapidly in the fall for the Sooners to have any hope of improving from last year defensively.
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."
A few of my observations on what we learned:
- Unseating Blake Bell looks mighty, mighty difficult. Given how he'd looked as a passer in limited opportunities thus far in his career, there was plenty of reason to doubt how well Bell would handle running the Sooners' entire offense. Still, when you consider how he played and threw in high school, there was equal reason to believe he'd handle it fine. Belief in the latter looks to have paid off. Oklahoma will want his completion percentage to be a lot higher, but he made a whole bunch of plays down the field and over the middle that show plenty of potential. He completed 14 of 23 passes for 213 yards and two touchdowns, but most importantly, he didn't have a turnover. If that means a lower completion percentage, Oklahoma's staff will take that trade all day. On Saturday, though, Bell was what he needed to be: A step ahead of competition Trevor Knight and Kendal Thompson. There's no guarantees yet, and Bob Stoops has never placed a high premium on naming a starter in the spring as opposed to fall camp, but by now, I'd be shocked if Bell doesn't mature into "The Guy" for the Sooners over the summer and leave little doubt in fall camp about whose team it is.
- The defense has a few interesting new faces. Trey Franks was suspended all last season, but turned a few heads by making seven tackles and breaking up two passes. The former receiver looked solid on the other side of the ball. We'll see how he fits into the rotation at safety for the Sooners. That's a huge position of need, and you'd have a hard time convincing me he couldn't challenge for a starting job in fall camp. D.J. Ward, a hyped, home-grown defensive end recruit, finally got on the field after being cleared by the NCAA, but he didn't record any stats and Saturday was his first practice in pads.
- Bob Stoops clarified his pay-for-play comments. I wrote about Stoops' controversial comments here, but he added another clarification after Saturday's game, according to The Oklahoman. "I was just asked about paying players to play football, and of course I went off on what they already are paid,” Stoops said. “And I probably was a little -- I didn't mean to be insensitive when I talked about when the dining halls close and we've all been in that situation. We've all been a little bit hungry on a Sunday here and there. … That doesn't mean I'm not concerned about my players and want to best for them." I don't disagree with Stoops there, but what he said doesn't change my point about the possible repercussion on the recruiting trail. It won't be hard for folks to make the case that other coaches are more sympathetic to their players' current situation, whether it's true or not. I agree with Stoops in that introducing how much he makes is irrelevant to the discussion (he argued that in Saturday's clarification), but I'm betting if Stoops had it to do over again, he'd take a pass at the question. No one's asking Stoops to change his answer or his belief. He's entitled to his opinion, and suggesting it's not a valid opinion is silly, but I fail to see the positives for him in speaking out on the issue.
- Start up the Trey Metoyer hype train one more time. Every now and then, guys make big noise during the spring and don't show up in the fall. That happened to Metoyer last season, but he sounds like a more mature player this spring, and showed up in a big way again on Saturday. Six catches for 122 yards will definitely get people fired up for him to break out in the fall. He's got everything you could ask for physically, he's just got to turn it into production. I sense we'll be hearing "Bell to Metoyer" quite a few times this fall, but only a few less times than "Bell to Shepard." Sterling Shepard had a quiet day with just two grabs for 22 yards, but I loved what he showed last season. The Ryan Broyles comparisons are premature, but he's definitely got flashes of the FBS all-time leader in receptions.
NORMAN, Okla. -- With nothing open from his initial reads, quarterback Blake Bell abandoned the pocket. But instead of attempting to truck his way into the end zone, the artist formerly known as the "Belldozer" rolled right.
Near the sidelines, he waited, and waited. And then when he couldn’t wait any longer, Bell stuck a pass into the chest of receiver Durron Neal for a three-yard touchdown.
AP Photo/Sue OgrockiJunior Blake Bell, considered the front-runner to start for the Sooners before the spring, had the best day of all the QBs in OU's spring game.
And sling it he did, demonstrating that the power running that made him a fan-favorite the past two seasons is just one facet of his arsenal.
Bell completed 14 of 23 passes for 213 yards and two touchdowns -- with no turnovers -- Saturday. He also showed the most poise and precision among the quarterbacks to seize momentum in the QB competition heading into the summer.
"I missed a couple throws," Bell said, "But overall, I thought I made some good plays, and was pretty accurate with the ball."
Bell displayed that accuracy from the opening possession, quickly moving the offense down the field with three completions to Jalen Saunders. The drive ultimately ended in a touchdown, when wide receiver Lacoltan Bester scooped up a Damien Williams fumble and raced 35 yards for the score.
With a quarterback derby, three first-year assistants and several new starters on defense, this has been one of the most storyline-rich springs of the Bob Stoops era. Of them all, here the seven most compelling storylines to watch for Saturday:
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Coach Bob Stoops, however, will be most focused on those plays the quarterbacks don’t make.
AP Photo/Tom UhlmanOklahoma coach Bob Stoops said he's happy with the way the quarterbacks have progressed but he wants to see less mistakes.
If Stoops has any complaint with the quarterbacks so far this spring, it’s been their penchant for the big mistake trying to convert the big play.
“They’re doing a pretty good job, but it seems like every day or scrimmage or team sessions there will be one or two plays where, ‘Ah, you better reevaluate that one.’ And it’s been all of them,” Stoops said. “I’m not sitting here saying they’re doing a really bad job. They’re doing a really good job.
“But some of those plays can be game changers, and you can't make them and gamble with the ball.”
During Sunday’s closed scrimmage, all three quarterbacks marched the offense down the field. Too many drives, however, were stalled out by sacks. Interceptions ended others. And that was with the quarterbacks being off limits to contact.
“They know they're not going to being tackled -- so they'll hold onto the ball a little longer, then let something go at the end and get a touchdown,” Stoops said. “But in reality they would have gotten hit in the mouth, the ball would've went straight up in the air and (the defense) would been running it back.
By all accounts, no one has pulled away in the quarterback battle this spring. All three have played well at times. In some cases, really well.
But the quarterback that ultimately secures the starting job figures to be the one that commits the fewest errors. On Saturday -- and beyond.
“There's enough good players around them that we'll be successful moving the football,” Stoops said, “if you trust them and don't gamble with the football.”
This could take a while.
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesJunior quarterback Blake Bell is still seen as the favorite to start for the Sooners in 2013.
“None of those guys have earned it yet,” said offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Josh Heupel. “It doesn't mean they're not playing well. It's just nobody has earned that spot.”
While evenly splitting up time with the first-team offense, all three quarterbacks have had their moments. Had their mistakes, too.
During Sunday’s two-hour scrimmage , Bell, Thompson and Knight all engineered touchdown drives. All three had nifty dashes out of Heupel’s new-look offense that relies on the legs of the quarterback.
But Knight threw a pick-six to freshman safety Ahmad Thomas. Thompson was also intercepted while trying to make something happen downfield. And Bell took two sacks on his first series, which ended with a three-and-out.
Through the first half of spring ball, we’ve updated the “Oklahoma 10,” which – you guessed it – features many new faces:
1. FB Trey Millard (Last ranking: 2): Perhaps no one stands to benefit more from the ongoing tweaks offensively this spring than Millard -- and that’s a good thing for the overall team, too. Millard averaged 6 yards per carry and more than 11 per reception in 2012, despite touching the ball just 63 the entire season. With a renewed emphasis on the running game featuring a heavy dose of read, midline and triple option, Millard figures to be a bigger part of the attack next season.
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Two of its best players, receiver Kenny Stills and safety Tony Jefferson, left school early for the NFL, leaving big holes on both sides of the ball.
Despite all that, our poll on the Sooners still shows that having "Oklahoma" across its chest means the Sooners are to be taken seriously in the Big 12 in any given year.
The losses didn't have a big impact on our voting, where 58 percent of you tagged last season's co-Big 12 champion as a Big 12 "contender" in 2013, compared to just 42 percent of you who say the Sooners are just pretending when they talk about winning a league title in 2013.
It's too early to really know, and Oklahoma has a lot to prove, but for me, it boils down to the quarterback spot. I don't have high expectations for Oklahoma's defense, so it needs the offense to put up a lot of points to win enough games for a Big 12 title.
That's up to the quarterback spot, whether it's Blake Bell or Trevor Knight or Kendal Thompson.
The Sooners received a lot of these votes based on reputation, which is part of the luxury of winning eight Big 12 titles since 2000. Based on that, they deserve the votes. But Oklahoma is more of an unknown than than any team we've looked at, and it's going to take a few games before we have any idea if it is a Big 12 contender.
Hansen has been a familiar face in Norman, Okla., the last two years, but it’s a different feeling as Hansen gets closer and closer to making a verbal commitment.
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Today's question: Which redshirt freshman will make the biggest impact for the Sooners in 2013?
• Taylor McNamara, Alex Ross and maybe even Trevor Knight could definitely spark the offense, but nowhere do the Sooners need a redshirt freshman to step up more than Jordan Wade at defensive tackle. Wade started to come on strong during bowl practices, which was a great sign for the 2013 season. The Sooners don't have a lot of other options at DT; at the moment, they only have three true DTs on the roster. One of those is Wade, who will have every opportunity to make an impact this season.
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Let's move on with Oklahoma.
Oklahoma's spring step forward: QB Blake Bell
Six teams in the Big 12 are breaking in a guy this spring who's never started a college game for his current team. I'd argue that Oklahoma's need for Bell to be great is more important than any other team in the league. For one, the natives are getting restless in Norman, tiring of 10-win seasons that feel pedestrian by Sooner standards, however unfair (or fair) you think that is. They want more, and in the Big 12, that's just not possible without truly excellent play from the quarterback spot.
Bell hasn't won this job yet -- youngsters Trevor Knight and Kendal Thompson will push him this spring -- but it's likely his job to lose and Oklahoma would be well-served if he'd win it. Bell has been in the thick of big-time football for the Sooners and the bright lights and big stage shouldn't wow him anymore. It's time for him to step forward and take control of the offense, though, shedding his single Belldozer package for the rest of the playbook. If Knight or Thompson wins this job, you have to assume more serious growing pains are in order, and that will mean losses. More than a few, and you can bet Oklahoma likely finds itself back with a 10-win season or worse. If Bell steps into his bigger role and fills it (adding in some excellence running the ball that Landry Jones' skill set could not provide), the Sooners will be in position to surprise with a big year and a great shot at a Big 12 title. If he doesn't, Oklahoma is going to have to settle for an average season or worse by their standards with a defense ill-suited for a big 2013 after losing seven starters from last year's unit.
Bell's the man who can pick up that slack, and Oklahoma's fortunes next season hinge on him.
See more Big 12 spring steps forward.
Regardless of who emerges out of the quarterback derby, the offense will change to fit the skill sets of Blake Bell, Trevor Knight and Kendal Thompson. How much change will be something offensive coordinator Josh Heupel determines this spring.
Icon SMIOffensive coordinator Josh Heupel says the Sooners will incorporate more designed quarterback runs.
The good news for Heupel and the Sooners is that Bell, Knight and Thompson share one distinguishing skill -- they can run. In the past, Heupel has said he would prefer to stay away from calling designed runs for his quarterbacks.
But Thursday, as OU prepares to open spring ball this weekend, he confessed that running the quarterback will be something he will consider implementing into the offense.
"We will never give up anything as far as our quarterbacks having the ability to pass -- that's our primary focus first,” Heupel said. “We have great skill guys, and we want to make sure we're able to distribute the ball to those guys.
“But certainly the guys we have on campus are a little bit different than Landry with their ability to extend and make plays with their feet. How many times we'll have designed play calls for them I can't tell you right now, but certainly that's something we'll probably look at in the spring.”
Running the quarterback -- the “Belldozer” package notwithstanding -- has not been something the Sooners have utilized in the Bob Stoops era. When he quarterbacked the Sooners in 1999-00, Heupel was strictly a pocket passer. After two knee injuries, Jason White became the same.
Sam Bradford and Jones were recruited as prototypical quarterbacks, and both did their damage in the pocket.
Heupel, however, admitted a running quarterback could add stress to opposing defenses. The Sooners found that out firsthand facing Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, who set a Cotton Bowl record with 516 total yards.
“As much as anything, I think it changes how defenses play you in all downs, but certainly in third down,” Heupel said. “Defensive linemen, guys stay in their rush lanes, and they have to keep an eye on the quarterback, [and] his ability to extend plays and run downfield and make a 15-, 20-yard gain with his feet.
“That is certainly an added dimension and stress that will be a little bit different for defenses that we play."