By John Shinn
NORMAN – In a sense, Oklahoma has been waiting for Saturday’s season opener for several years. Years ago, the coaching staff made the decision that quarterback mobility was going to be a factor in recruiting.
The ability to tuck the ball and run is a trait Blake Bell (2010), Kendal Thompson (2011), Trevor Knight (2012) and Cody Thomas (2013) all shared.
Bell’s shown the positive effect being able to block with 10 instead of nine can have in the Belldozer package the last two seasons. However, it’s Knight who gets to display the full ramifications when gets the start Saturday night when the season begins against Louisiana-Monroe at Owen Field.
So why the pull the trigger now?
“We’ve just been fortunate to find guys that we like how they throw so well, and they happen to be able to run, too,” OU coach Bob Stoops said. “We wouldn’t take any of them looking at their legs first. You know, it’s all about being able to throw the ball and pass the ball first, as we look at anybody, and then, hey, if there’s two of them awfully close, maybe this guy runs a little better than another guy, whatever. There are different reasons that you look for.”
The Sooners have witnessed what a weapon it can be for years. OU lost four of five to Texas from 2005-09. One of the major reasons for those losses was the Longhorns had quarterbacks — Vince Young (2005) and Colt McCoy (2006-09) — who could get out of the pocket and stretch defenses. They could turn busted plays into positive gains.
The emphatic stamp Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel put on his Heisman Trophy season was running wild against the Sooners in the AT T Cotton Bowl Classic.
“It’s kind of how the game’s evolving now with a mobile quarterback. The game’s changing a little bit,” OU center Gabe Ikard said.
But OU’s waited until now to make its shift because one quarterback is not enough. The goal for any team is to have multiple quarterbacks who can run the same offense. For continuity’s sake, it’s the easiest and most effective way to craft an offense.
Employing quarterbacks in the running game makes it an imperative. The chance of injury increases every time a quarterback lowers his shoulder and every time he hits the turf.
Knight may get the start Saturday, but OU’s thoroughly convinced Bell can run the same offense.
In that sense, it might strongly resemble the offense mobility-challenged Landry Jones ran for the last four years. Offensive coordinator Josh Heupel says the only difference he’s expecting is a quarterback who can elude pressure in the pocket and take off when nothing is open down field.
“Extend plays” is a phrase he used repeatedly.
Stoops believes OU Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Sam Bradford had the ability to give OU the option years earlier, but that was met with a tepid response in the coaches’ office. Bradford’s arm was good enough. No sense putting it a risk.
“We just chose not to, you know, to read it and pull it with him because of all the other things he did so well,” Stoops said. “But I think it’s always been our philosophy that as long as he can throw and make the throws we want, the better legs, the better.”
The Sooners have built a cupboard of mobile quarterbacks. Now they get to reap the benefits from it.
La. Monroe at OU
6 p.m. Saturday, Fox PPV