|| Time to Earn It
For those fans hoping that the Sooners will name a starting quarterback after the spring game, don't hold your breath.
Based on comments Thursday from head coach Bob Stoops and co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel, both seem comfortable letting the competition play out as long as necessary.
If that sort of patient approach pays off the same way the last time OU experienced an off-season quarterback duel, Sooner fans will certainly be happy. Sam Bradford emerged as the Sooners' starter in 2007, throwing 36 TDs and just eight INTs as he guided OU to a Fiesta Bowl berth. A year later, Bradford won the Heisman Trophy with 50-touchdown campaign as the Sooners faced Florida in the BCS National Championship Game.
While no one is necessarily putting those sorts of lofty expectations on Blake Bell, Trevor Knight or Kendal Thompson, the OU coaching staff is anxious to see the competition begin on Saturday.
"I think when guys are pretty equal or there isn't a definitive edge, I think it's just fair and competition that you give them their opportunities on the field," said Stoops. "Who in the moment will step up and maybe make more plays in the game when it really matters and avoid the critical bad play and be more consistent? Sometimes you can't tell that until you're on the field a little bit.
"If you look at it, we generally haven't made the decision real early, though," the head coach continued. "There comes a certain time when somebody has to start and be ready for it. I think most of our battles have continued through the summer and through two-a-days for good reason in our minds, anyway. We want to see the continued competition. We may in our mind already know who has the edge in our eyes, but let's see if he's had a good summer. Let's see if maybe someone didn't come back and improve more than he did over the summer and overtakes him. We want to see that competition work through into the summer and I would imagine that it would be the same thing."
Heupel, who is no stranger to quarterback duels himself, echoed the sentiments of his head coach, declaring that there is no firm timetable on naming a starter.
"Ideally, we're going to name a guy when he's earned it," said Heupel. "That's what we've always done here. That position is extremely important. I think for that guy to go out and earn that position, earn the confidence of the guys around him, earn the trust of the people around him, so you can ultimately lead that group, that offense, in the way that we want to.
"As far as competition in the two-a-days, sometimes I think that drives guys throughout the summer, and in a different way, too. The sense of urgency they feel is a little bit different, as well. So there are pluses and minuses to both of them. Ultimately you can't name a guy until you have a guy."
|| New Faces, New Responsibilities
Head coach Bob Stoops outlined new responsibilities for several members of the coaching staff and defined the roles for the new additions to the OU coaching unit.
"Coach (Bobby Jack) Wright is going to work with the corners," the head coach indicated. "Mike is going to work with the safeties. In our league we play a lot of five DBs, sometime six. I think more eyes there will help us there."
The Sooners' defensive coordinator agreed that having Wright, the club's assistant head coach, work with him in the secondary would be a plus.
"A year ago, it was hard coaching six guys (entire secondary) in a very important element of the game," said Mike Stoops. "We'll still have continuity, but having a guy who sees things the same way you do is a bonus ... It's good to have a guy who can see things the way we see them together ... I think being able to coordinate a defense and having a guy like Bobby Jack will give me a guy who will hopefully allow me to do my job better."
As Jerry Montgomery indicated on Wednesday, he'll coach the entire defensive front.
"Having the front together was important," said Mike Stoops. "It was to re-energize and re-invigorate our front. We wanted to keep those guys together and build a bond. I think Jerry will do a great job."
Bill Bedenbaugh will coach the entire offensive line, meaning that entire position group will be led by one individual in 2013, as well.
Jay Boulware will officially be listed as tight ends coach/special teams coordinator. While Boulware owns an impressive special teams resume, the head coach did praise the work that Wright did in that area a year ago.
"Nobody talked about it," Stoops said of OU's performance on special teams in 2012. "Bobby Jack was our special teams coordinator. We were about first or second in the league in about everything."
|| Today's Big 12
Mike Stoops probably isn't alone. No doubt, plenty of defensive coordinators might keep a bottle of Pepto Bismol in their bottom drawer playing in the pass-happy Big 12. After returning to the conference in 2012, Stoops has had a chance to analyze last and is focused on a number of areas to make improvement this spring.
Stoops admitted that putting pressure on opposing passers is easier said than done in the Big 12, referencing the low numbers of sacks permitted by offenses across the conference. No conference school allowed more than 30.0 sacks in 2012. In fact, only Oklahoma State (12.0) and Kansas State (14.0) permitted fewer sacks than Oklahoma's offense (15.0).
Defensively, only Texas (35.0), Kansas State (32.0) and TCU (29.0) registered more sacks than the Sooners (25.0) in 2012. Translation - with so many teams in the league thriving with quick-passing attacks, quantifying defensive pressure isn't as simply as counting sacks.
"Today people don't hold on to the ball like they used to," the defensive coordinator explained. "That's just how the league is and it gets frustrating but, like you said, I think you have to get pressure on the quarterback and at least make him feel it. You have to create pressure, get in windows and that's where we need to be better at as a defense, in getting inside the throwing the windows. In this league, the good teams aren't going to take sacks. Look at it statistically and that's what you see, it's pretty alarming that people can throw the ball that many times, be that efficient and take no sacks. It's unheard of."
While there are no anticipated changes to OU's base 3-4 defensive alignment, the head coach said the team would likely experiment with other packages like a "50" front in the spring.
"We will still do our four-man front and will work different guys in the rotation," he said. "We will also experiment because I think it's a positive to jump into a 50 and do some of that stuff."
Senior DB Aaron Colvin
"I came back for my senior season because I felt like there was business I needed to finish with my teammates and individually. I signed with the University of Oklahoma because I knew I'd have the opportunity to maximize my potential as a player and be part of a team that could play for championships. If you want to be viewed as one of the best, you've got to compete against the best. I look at our schedule thinking we've got something to prove every week. I'm excited about the new players we added on signing day, and can't wait to start competing with those guys."
RS Senior C Gabe Ikard
"I'm extremely excited for the start of spring practice. We've been working hard in the weight room to gain strength and speed. It will be great to have the entire team back on the field to prepare for a very challenging schedule ahead of us in 2013."
Head Coach Bob Stoops
"We're all really excited to get back on the field Saturday. With a new football team with this time of year everything is different and new. We're always looking for the different position battles that will be taking place. Everybody in our building is really looking forward to it. We'll practice Saturday and Sunday, take advantage of the weekend. Hopefully have some good meetings and some good quality time on the field. I feel like our guys have done an excellent job through the winter. I know Coach (Jerry) Schmidt is really pleased with the attitude of the guys, the way they've lifted, they've trained, hopefully gaining more speed and power, those kinds of things heading into spring ball."
Coach Josh Heupel
I think at the quarterback position you're only as good as the guys around you. If you want to be successful, you want to have 10 other guys playing at a high level. Certainly, those five guys up front have some experience; and we're going to find out how the guys grow and continue to come on. We need better up front. They need to play with more urgency. They need to be tougher and more physical. They need to be better fundamentally. If they do that, they have a chance to really catapult us offensively and allow us to be as efficient as we want to be."
Coach Mike Stoops
"We will move Gabe Lynn, who has great flexibility, to go over to free safety. Quentin Hayes will go over to strong safety. Who plays at the other corner will be our biggest challenge. We have a great group of young secondary players coming in and we will lean on them in the fall."
Head Coach Bob Stoops
"We have an off week before (the Thursday night Baylor game). It was something we discussed. In the end, with the new television agreement everyone will have to have their hand in playing a game on a Thursday night. With our situation with our stadium on campus, it really isn't conducive for us to host one. We're going to have to go somewhere to play one. I'd rather do it where we have an off-week before it so we don't get trapped on a short week. In analyzing it with Joe, we thought this might be the best scenario with the off-week ahead of it and a relatively short trip."
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Head coach Bob Stoops, co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel and defensive coordinator Mike Stoops previewed spring football during Thursday's press conference:
Head Coach Bob Stoops
Coach Josh Heupel
Coach Mike Stoops
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