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Thompson moves back to QB, will start, Stoops says

NORMAN, Okla. -- Paul Thompson will move back from wide
receiver to take over as Oklahoma's starting quarterback, a role
vacated when Rhett Bomar was dismissed for violating NCAA rules.

A backup the previous three seasons, Thompson had won the
starting job outright last fall but was supplanted by Bomar after
the Sooners lost to TCU in Thompson's first career start.

"We feel there's no question that the amount of experience that
Paul has for us is really good experience," Oklahoma coach Bob
Stoops said Thursday. "He's been on the field for us. He's
competed. He's been taking quarterback snaps for four years. We're
expecting Paul to do well."

In his career, Thompson has completed 42 of 73 passes for 428
yards. He caught 11 passes for 106 yards after moving to receiver
last season.

"Realize for the last four years he has been our backup
quarterback all four years," Stoops said. "The only time he has
not been a quarterback has been 15 practices here in the last
spring. Last year, if there was anything that happened, we were
going with Paul."

Thompson, who'd waited for his turn as Nate Hybl and Heisman
winner Jason White wrapped up their careers at Oklahoma, appeared
to get his chance last fall. After a competition with Bomar that
had lasted throughout spring and fall practice, Thompson was named
the starter heading into the season opener.

Coaches changed their minds after Thompson fumbled twice and
threw one interception in the upset loss to TCU. Bomar, who came in
to replace Thompson, also fumbled to set up a TCU touchdown.

"At the time, all things considered, Paul had had more snaps
than Rhett and their competition was pretty close. It was darn
close, in our minds," Stoops said. "That being the case, we felt
Rhett had had far less snaps, that given the opportunity to have
more, that he would progress further and have longer to play."

After Bomar's dismissal on Wednesday, coaches were left to
decide whether to move Thompson again or go with one of three
quarterbacks who'd never taken a game snap at Oklahoma:
junior-college transfer Joey Halzle, freshman Sam Bradford and
walk-on Hays McEachern.

"This isn't anything against the young guys. They don't have
the experience in our program and in our offense that Paul does,"
Stoops said.

"Joey is a young guy that's come along from a junior college
that still has three years to play that we really like. Joey just
needs to be brought along more. He needs more experience. And Sam
Bradford's only been here in the summer."

Stoops met with Thompson on Tuesday and asked him to think about
the decision and discuss it with his parents. Thompson returned
Wednesday to accept the job. His hopes to play in the NFL were
among his considerations.

"That was part of it. I want to be able to showcase my talent,
but the total focus is on this team right now and winning some
games," Thompson said.

"There's no better position to show your athletic ability than
the quarterback. You've got the ball every play and you're able to
make a lot of plays."

Stoops complimented Thompson for being willing to face the
scrutiny that comes with the position.

"That takes a lot of courage and a lot of guts because of,
again, the magnitude of it all," Stoops said. "That's the kind of
guy he is. He's as special a young guy that we have coached here."

Thompson said he would throw passes to warm up prior to summer
drills, but he hadn't thrown a passing route between the Holiday
Bowl and the start of Oklahoma's fall practice on Thursday
afternoon.

"My dad told me, he kept telling me, 'You better get out and
throw something. Throw at a tree. Throw at a house,'' Thompson
said.

Thompson said he felt his first practice went well, especially
considering the quick change. His throws were crisp and on target,
and Stoops even urged fans to cheer when the new quarterback
completed passes. The most noticeable problem was a couple of
botched exchanges with the center.

"It's just hard to switch like that. I've switched a couple
times," Thompson said. "Just switching all around and just trying
to stay focused with a positive attitude, that's the hardest
thing."

Stoops said he still expected his team to be able to contend for
the Big 12 championship. Adrian Peterson, the Heisman Trophy
runner-up two seasons ago, shared that sentiment.

"He's got talent. If he didn't, he wouldn't be at the
University of Oklahoma," Peterson said. "It's up to him to step
up to the plate and get it done, and I feel like he will."

Stoops said he expected the Sooners to make adjustments so the
offense is better suited to Thompson's abilities. He said he
thought coaches didn't adapt to Thompson much last season and
instead kept the offense used with 2000 Heisman Trophy runner-up
Josh Heupel, Hybl and White.

"I think it's fair to say that we can do more as a coaching
staff to play into what fits him and what he likes more," Stoops
said. "And some of it will be the same. But we can also implement
some factors in our offense that can blend to his athletic ability
as well."

New offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson, the team's former
offensive line coach, said he had planned to take a week to 10 days
to determine the team's strengths even if Bomar was still on the
team. Now, he'll make his evaluations with Thompson under center.