- Jake Trotter, ESPN Staff Writer
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NORMAN, Okla. -- Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein always was suspicious.
Oklahoma's short-yardage "Belldozer" package, featuring power-running backup quarterback Blake Bell, sure resembled Kansas State's own offense.
After bumping into Bob Stoops at Big 12 media days during the summer, Klein's suspicions were confirmed.
"I saw you running all those plays, and I got a guy just like that or bigger," the Oklahoma coach confessed. "So we started running all your plays."
The Sooners debuted the Belldozer at Kansas State last season to a rousing success. Bell ran for one touchdown and two first downs out of the formation, and Oklahoma hammered the Wildcats, 58-17. Instantly, the Sooners went from having one of the worst short-yardage offenses in the country to one of the best, and Bell went on to finish with a team-high 13 rushing touchdowns.
"Blake has that physical presence, and obviously Collin has that, too," offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said. "Some of the stuff they've done with their quarterbacks in the past, that obviously had influences on what we wanted to do in that package."
The sixth-ranked Sooners and No. 15 Wildcats meet Saturday night in Norman, and the No. 1 focus of the Sooners' defense will be containing Klein, who remains one of college football's top dual-threat quarterbacks.
"Their quarterback run game is very extensive, very detailed," defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. "One of the best rushing teams in the country, year in, year out. A lot of that is predicated on their quarterback. Collin Klein is a tremendous player with his hands on the ball."
The Sooners, however, have their own Collin Klein in Bell, a sophomore who during the preseason won the No. 2 quarterback battle over Drew Allen. Even though they have shown improvement in getting short yardage out of their base offense, they continue to feature Bell out of the Belldozer.
"If your quarterback can run the ball, then you add one to yourself, so you got enough to block their people and that is the advantage of it," Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said this week. "When you take a guy like Blake or Collin who is big, strong and physical, that is advantageous."
The genesis of the Belldozer dates to the 2011 preseason. All through the spring and two-a-days, the Oklahoma offense kept struggling to convert short-yardage situations.
After watching what Kansas State was doing with Klein, Bob Stoops and Heupel thought their short-yardage ailments might be cured by utilizing the 6-foot-6, 260-pound Bell in a similar fashion. After bouncing the idea off director of football operations Merv Johnson -- Barry Switzer's offensive coordinator during Oklahoma's wishbone heyday -- the Belldozer was born.
"We didn't know what would happen with it," Heupel said. "It started with the quarterback power and went from there."
The Sooners kept an eye on Kansas State throughout the season. Whenever the Wildcats unveiled a new play, OU experimented with it out of the Belldozer. One of Kansas State's bread-and-butter plays, the quarterback counter, also became a Belldozer staple.
"We're always paying attention to what they were doing offensively," Sooners co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell said, "because Blake certainly can do some of those same things."
As effective as the Belldozer has been, it would seem natural that the Sooners would adopt Kansas State's offense full-time in 2013, when Bell likely will succeed Landry Jones as OU's starting quarterback.
Bob Stoops, however, says don't count it.
"You get your quarterback hurt," he said. "Then, as soon as you get them hurt, you better have another one. If you don't, you have a whole new offense to start. [Quarterbacks like Bell and Klein] are fairly hard to find."
Bell's running prowess has been a godsend, but the Sooners recruited the Wichita, Kan., native because of his rocket arm. Bell, who has declined interview requests this year, threw for almost 6,000 yards and 70 touchdowns his final two seasons at Bishop Carroll High School, and ESPN 150 rated him the No. 3 quarterback recruit in the country, and No. 65 overall, in the Class of 2010.
Bell always will be a threat to run. But the Sooners are banking on him becoming OU's next great passer, too.
"Blake has some skills as a thrower that he hasn't had an opportunity to show yet," Norvell said. "Those were the things we saw in him when we recruited him. I think he'll continue to grow and develop the more opportunities he gets to play."
14hEric D. Williams