QB competition heats up

NORMAN, Okla. -- The Sooners concluded their third practice of the spring by filming their version of the "Harlem Shake," which cascaded through all realms of social media later Tuesday night.

Soon, though, Sooner Nation will turn its focus away from Barry Switzer's fur coat and back to Oklahoma's quarterback shuffle.

For the first time since 2007, spring football in Norman features a quarterback competition. Neither Blake Bell nor Kendal Thompson nor Trevor Knight will be conducting interviews this spring. But their teammates shared some first impressions Tuesday.

"I really like all three," said Jalen Saunders, who will be the No. 1 receiver for whoever wins the job. "All of them are mobile -- real dual-threats. All three have shown good signs of throwing, knowing what passes they can make, what reads they can make.

"It's going to be a great competition, and I'm looking forward to seeing who ends up being the starter."

All signs point to the Sooners waiting until the fall before naming a starter -- much like they did with Sam Bradford in 2007. But whoever performs the best this spring will hold an edge in the competition going into the summer and two-a-days.

After three workouts, no one seems to hold that edge.

"I'm paying attention to [the competition] a lot," said running back Damien Williams. "I like to egg it on, push them to see who wants it more -- to see who wants to break out.

"No one has broken out yet. They're all about even."

All three have had their moments so far this spring. But the opportunity for separation won't arrive in earnest until the Sooners hold their major scrimmages, highlighted by the Red-White spring game on April 13.

"Everyone wants to know who the quarterback is going to be," said receiver Sterling Shepard. "We're going to find out soon enough."

Many times in the Bob Stoops era, the Sooners have had an obvious heir-apparent at quarterback. Josh Heupel in 1999. Jason White in 2003. Landry Jones in 2010.

But Heupel, OU's offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, said a competition like this one should bring out the best in all three. Or at least in the winner.

"I love competition everywhere. Every position, and certainly our quarterback position," he said. "It certainly ensures there is going to be urgency. When you're fighting for your life every day, when there's pressure on every throw like there is on a Saturday afternoon, there's some positive things that come out of it."

Heupel, however, is looking for more beyond who responds best to pressure.

"It's command of what you're doing offensively," he said. "It's can you take care of the football, what type of leadership skills, do they have the ability to make plays and take care of the football when plays aren't there, can they extend plays with their feet?

"It's decision-making in everything you're doing."

Because Bell has been around longer, Heupel admitted that Bell has a leg up on Thompson and Knight and is further along and more comfortable with the scheme and reads.

But Heupel added that his two younger quarterbacks had "great" offseasons, and rapidly progressing mentally, thanks to their work in the film room.

Eventually, though, one of them will have to close the gap completely to beat out Bell.

"It doesn't have to be done today, doesn't have to be done [on] Day 14, doesn't have to be done [on] day 15," Heupel said. "But someone has to earn the position.

"Once [one of them] earns the position, you feel comfortable naming the guy."