QB competition could re-energize OU

For first time in six years, the Sooners have a question mark at quarterback

Updated: February 24, 2013, 10:41 PM ET
By Jake Trotter | SoonerNation

NORMAN, Okla. -- New assistants Bill Bedenbaugh and Jerry Montgomery will help energize an Oklahoma program that's gone stale in recent years.

So will the school's first quarterback competition in six years.

[+] EnlargeBlake Bell
Richard Rowe/US PresswireJunior Blake Bell will have to fight off Trevor Knight and Kendal Thompson for the OU quarterback job.
Landry Jones is gone to the NFL, bringing a new chapter to OU football. And a new quarterback regime.

For the first time since 2006, someone other than Sam Bradford or Jones will be quarterbacking the Sooners. Such uncertainty at a key position is one reason why the OU could start outside the Top 15 in the preseason rankings for the first time in 13 years. But many around the program believe such competition could have a re-energizing effect on the squad.

"I think the competition at the quarterback position is really gonna energize our offense, and we're gonna see a lot of people rally," co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell said. "The cream rises to the top when people rally, and I think it's gonna be more competitive and better.

"I talk to the wide receivers all the time that this is a critical time of year. They're throwing the ball to one another, and whoever our quarterback is, he's gaining confidence with somebody. OK, so who's that gonna be? It puts a lot of pressure on the receivers to be that guy. To be a guy that's accountable. To be a guy that runs his routes hard all the time. To be a guy that will be the playmaker so when that quarterback gets in trouble, he's looking for you."

The quarterback derby will be worked out in the coming months. Blake Bell remains the favorite to succeed Jones. Not only is he older, but Bell has the most experience on the field and in the offense.

Freshman Trevor Knight, however, showed as the scout-team quarterback last fall that Bell won't simply be handed the reigns to the offense. Sophomore Kendal Thompson has also displayed a tremendous work ethic to go with his electric feet in the pocket.

"I think it's definitely an advantage to have played; there's a confidence level that comes from playing," Norvell said. "But at the same time, those younger guys showed a lot of leadership on the scout team. They showed a lot of confidence on the scout team. They showed a lot of talent and ability on the scout team versus a very good defense.

"I don't know if that will be the difference. We'll see. But at the same time, I think we have some talented young guys that are anxious to show what they can do. I think that will give us a different energy on offense, and I'm really looking forward to it. I really am. I think it's gonna be fun for everybody, and everybody's gonna have to step their game up because we're building a different identity with some different leadership that will be fun to watch."

That identity shift figures to translate to the entire team. The Sooners face transition defensively too, with only four starters returning. The rest of the defense will feature some intriguing battles for playing time at every level of the defense. On top of that, the coaching staff has discussed the possibility of shifting OU's entire defensive identity to a 3-4 scheme that would place added value on quickness and speed. Such a drastic change would seemingly put everyone's job other than cornerback Aaron Colvin's in play.

"Right now, we've got a lot of competition at every position," Norvell said. "We've got good talent -- and our chemistry's just different."

The Sooners return far more experience offensively, especially up front. But a new offensive line coach in Bedenbaugh means that no one's job is locked in stone.

And at the skill positions, players will be rallying. Attempting to be the first ones to gain the trusts of the quarterbacks.

"When you have a quarterback that's been here for so long. ... everybody kinda just falls in line," Norvell said. "I think this quarterback competition is gonna be energizing for everybody."