MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

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August 13, 2013

Bell or Knight? Starting quarterback still a mystery at Oklahoma

NORMAN – Less than three weeks before Oklahoma’s season opener, coach Bob Stoops seems unconcerned that he hasn’t yet named a starting quarterback.

Stoops gave no indication that his decision between Blake Bell and Trevor Knight will come any time soon and he told reporters he hasn’t ruled out using two quarterbacks when the Sooners host Louisiana-Monroe on Aug. 31, saying “there’s always that chance.”

The last time Stoops waited this long to decide on a starting quarterback was 2007. He waited until that Aug. 21 to pick then-redshirt freshman Sam Bradford over Joey Halzle and Keith Nichol.

Bradford, of course, went on to win the Heisman Trophy in 2008 and returned to Oklahoma for the 2009 campaign, only to have his season shortened by injury. His backup, Landry Jones, ascended to the top job and held it through 2012.

Bell appeared to be Jones’ heir apparent, as he saw considerable playing time last season as part of the Sooners’ “Belldozer” power-running offensive set. Still, Stoops declared the job to be an open competition between Bell, Knight and Kendal Thompson. Thompson suffered a fractured right foot on the opening day of preseason practice and fell out of the race, at least temporarily.

Stoops said he saw no drawbacks in waiting to name a starting quarterback.

“They’re both being prepared to play, as well as (current third-stringer) Cody Thomas as well,” Stoops said Monday. “But at the end of the day, I keep saying this, this isn’t our first rodeo. We’ve done this a lot. We’ve won eight Big 12 championships with six different quarterbacks, so it hasn’t really hurt us a lot. We’re trying to get them all ready to play.”

Stoops also said there’s no guarantee that whoever is the starter against Louisiana-Monroe would keep the job the entire season, saying the quarterback position is just like any other. He said a second-teamer could become a starter “if you played better than the other guy or if you have a better week of practice and the other guy junks it up. They can always change. In this (team meeting) room, that’s not the case. No one is treated differently than anyone else.”

When Stoops decides to name a starter, he said he’ll meet with Knight and Bell but won’t announce it to the team, figuring other players will “start realizing who’s getting all the No. 1 reps.” He said that making an announcement to the team would improperly elevate the quarterback position over other positions.

“We don’t tell them who’s going to start at (defensive) end or at linebacker or at wide receiver, so there’s no sense in doing it with (the quarterbacks),” Stoops said.

Stoops said no one on the team is too worked up about the current situation. Two of his players said as much before the coach arrived in the room, although they appeared to carefully choose their words.

“We get a lot of reps with all of them,” sophomore wide receiver Sterling Shepard said. “I wouldn’t say that I needed to know right now.”

Added senior offensive lineman Bronson Irwin: “I can’t say a whole lot about them, but both those guys have looked good. . To me, it doesn’t affect me. I’m just going to prepare and be ready to be the best at my job. We have two guys that are capable of playing high-level football and whichever one ends up being the guy, that’s going to be beneficial for us and we’ll do all right.”

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