- Brandon Chatmon, ESPN Staff Writer
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His voice sounds the same but the weight of his words land differently throughout the halls of the Switzer Center.
Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight is growing into his role as “the man” behind center this spring. His leadership in the hallways and meeting rooms of OU’s football building could be a key to the 2014 season.
“Building off of last year and being the oldest guy, it kind of forces you to step up and be that leader,” Knight said. “I feel like guys are looking at me to be that guy and I think I’ve done a good job of being that and they’re following pretty well.”
For the majority of the 2013 season the quarterback spot remained unclear as Knight was joined by Kendal Thompson and Blake Bell as options at the position. Now, after Knight’s stellar Allstate Sugar Bowl, the sophomore is the unquestioned starter and the guy the offense will turn to for leadership when adversity hits.
“[It’s] his ability to speak with a louder stick in the weight room and locker room,” offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said. “For him to [show] more of his personality and [put his] stamp on the offense.”
Yet, Knight’s role has undertaken a bigger change than his daily approach. Heupel often praised his work ethic and habits while he was redshirting in 2012, saying Knight was preparing as if he was the starter despite being the scout team quarterback at the time.
That part of Knight’s personality is as present as ever.
“I don’t know if it’s necessarily a change in his demeanor,” Heupel said. “He’s a great leader, a great kid on and off the field. He’s extremely competitive. He’s the same guy every day, in the meeting room or on the field, he doesn’t change. Hopefully that will transcend through entire football team.”
Those traits are one of the reasons the coaching staff didn’t think twice about naming him the opening day starter a year ago.
“I don’t notice it being much different,” coach Bob Stoops said. “Because he always did what you wanted him to do.”
It’s easy to forget that Knight is still a young player with three years to play and plenty of improvement to make. He’s the oldest player in the quarterback room with Baker Mayfield (who is ineligible for 2014 after transferring from Texas Tech after his true freshman season), redshirt freshman Cody Thomas and true freshman Justice Hansen alongside him.
“It’s nice to be the oldest guy and be that leader,” Knight said. “But I know that I haven’t accomplished much yet. I’m still a young guy so I want to build off of that and get better and better every day.”
This spring isn’t just about becoming comfortable as the focal point and leader of the offense. Knight needs to become a better quarterback.
“He continues to progress,” Heupel said. “We think he has a great command of what we’re doing and he’s understanding defenses better. He should only get better at every practice with every rep.”