Trevor Knight – not the Belldozer – to start for Oklahoma

August 29, 2013

Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops has startled his fan base by naming redshirt freshman Trevor Knight as the starting quarterback over junior Blake Bell – the “Belldozer.”

After four years of Landry Jones – a classic dropback pocket passer – Stoops apparently wants a more mobile quarterback.

Knight stood out running the scout team last year in preparation for the Cotton Bowl game against Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M. Knight seemed to be as hard to corral as Manziel and that made the quarterback derby a genuine race.

Knight has never played a down of college football.

Bell, coming in mostly on short-yardage situations, has rushed for 24 touchdowns in two season.

Stoops will start Knight at quarterback for the 2013 season opener against Louisiana-Monroe on Aug. 31 in Norman.

“Both Trevor and Blake (Bell) have competed hard and both will be ready to play against Louisiana-Monroe,” Stoops said. “Like every other position on our team, I expect them both to continue competing for the starting job.”

A four-star recruit out of Reagan High School in San Antonio, Texas, Knight threw for 27 touchdowns and 2,092 yards with only three interceptions as a prep senior while also rushing for 943 yards with 15 touchdowns. He also got 1,050 rushing yards with 22 touchdowns to go along with 1,629 passing yards and 11 scores as a junior.

Stoops said both Knight and Bell would see action but he hasn’t outlined how Bell would be used. Quarterback Kendall Thompson, who also was in line to maybe replace Jones, is hurt and won’t see action for several weeks.

The toughest stretch for the Sooners will be Sept. 28 (Notre Dame), Oct. 5 (TCU) and Oct. 12 (Texas). OU travels to South Bend and hosts TCU before the Red River Shootout in Dallas agains the Longhorns.

“We have an incredibly tough schedule throughout, but in particular when you look at the first six games with our nonconference schedule to go with West Virginia and Texas, I believe, in our first couple of games, also is just really challenging and difficult,” Stoops said. “So it will be a tough challenge when you look at that first half of the season.”

Louisiana Monroe beat Arkansas last year and barely lost to Baylor and Auburn (in overtime).

The Sooners went 10-3 in 2012 (8-1 in the Big 12) and were co-champions of the Big 12 (along with Kansas State). Stoops is entering his 15th year as head coach and has a 149-37 overall record, with a record eight conference championships and a national championship.

The graduation of Jones (now with the Pittsburgh Steelers) and an up-and-down season on defense tempered national expectations for OU, ranked 16th in the preseason Top 25.

Depth on the offensive line softened the blow of the loss of tackle Lane Johnson (drafted in the first round by Philadelphia) but losing safeties Tony Jefferson and Javon Harris plus cornerback Demontre Hurst will force OU to rely on talented but inexperienced replacements.

Wide receiver Kenny Stills is now with the New Orleans Saints but the Sooners return Jalen Saunders and several talented receivers.

Stoops said several freshmen could see extended action this fall.

On the offensive side of the ball, running back Keith Ford and wide receivers Austin Bennett and Dannon Cavil, all true freshmen, were projected to receive playing time by Stoops. In addition, junior college offensive linemen Tony Feo, Dionte Savage and Josiah St. John were also cited to provide depth and possibly shore up special teams.

On defense, true freshmen defensive linemen Matt Dimon, Ogbonnia Okoronkwo and Charles Walker will compete along with junior college transfer Quincy Russell. D.J. Ward, out following surgery to remove his spleen, could also see the field if he heals well, according to Stoops. The linebacking corps could see action from Dominique Alexander and Jordan Evans, while in the secondary, Stoops mentioned cornerbacks Dakota Austin, L.J. Moore and Stanvon Taylor and safeties Hatari Byrd and Ahmad Thomas.

The defense is being rebuilt.

“It’s still a work in progress,” Stoops said during Big 12 Media Days. “Definitely, in some of our schemes a year ago, we were more coverage conscious, and it hurt us in the run game. In the end, we’ll have to make some adjustments there.

 

“And personnel-wise, we do lose quite a few guys, but we are very excited about the talent and ability of some of the young players coming up that we’re still developing, still polishing, still trying to improve skills. They’re working hard at it. So I believe we have a chance to make improvement there.”

Even though the Big 12 is home to some of the best offenses in the nation, Stoops said he has not forgotten about playing solid defense.

“We’ve gone about our business of coaching and trying to be great on defense, and the way we work it, the same way a year ago as we did back in 1999 and 2000, in years where we’ve had great defenses,” Stoops said. “I think some of it is gets down to offensive schemes and being able to adjust defensively. There’s always a coaching element to it, and there’s also a personnel element to it, where sometimes you’re more dominant in the personnel that you have on defense as opposed to offense.

I think you do have to give a little bit of credit to every year, it seems, in our league there’s some incredible quarterbacks. You see a good number of them littered throughout the NFL once they leave here.

“So that always — to me, the better the quarterback, whether it’s in the NFL or in college football, the harder they are to stop. In our league, we’ve had a lot of really good ones. And to finish that, I think, too, our decision to go more up tempo has led our defense to be on the field more, and that’s a fact, too.”

 

Tress Way, the school record holder with a career average of 44.0 yards per kick, graduated. Stoops said he has been impressed with junior college transfer Jed Barnett. At Laney College last year, Barnett averaged 41.3 yards on his 65 punts, landing 14 inside the 20-yard line.

With rankings from the Associated Press, which date back to 1936, CollegeFootballNews.com tabbed Oklahoma as the top team of all-time.

According to the site, “CFN came up with a scoring system to compare and contrast how the programs finished over the decades. Every time a team finished No. 1 in the final poll, it got 25 points. The No. 2 team got 24 points, No. 3 got 23 points, and so on with the No. 25 team getting one point.”

OU stood atop the poll with 953 points, fending off Michigan (943), Ohio State (927), Alabama (923) and Notre Dame (918).

The Sooners have been ranked No. 1 more than any team in college football. The Sooners also own the most weeks in the Top 2, the Top 5 and the Top 10. OU has finished No. 1 in the final poll and crowned national champions by the AP seven times.

Oklahoma has been ranked in 69 percent of all weekly AP polls — more than half the time in the top 10 and one-third of the time in the top five. OU has been ranked among the top two teams in the nation in nearly 20 percent of the polls and ranked the No. 1 team in the nation in 10 percent of the polls.

For security reasons in 2013, fans who go to an OU game can only bring in women’s purses smaller than 10×10 inches and empty, clear plastic bottles (for drinking water).

Construction on Interstate-35 west of the campus could cause delays. The I-35/Main Street Bridge interchange is being completely replaced, meaning there is no egress to or from I-35 to Main Street. Fans are strongly encouraged to plan alternate routes to their parking destination in advance. Extra time should be allowed for both arrival to and departure from the stadium.

Heading southbound on I-35, fans are encouraged to exit no further south than Tecumseh Road and take either Highway 77 or Tecumseh Road as alternate routes. For those traveling northbound, the South Canadian River Bridge just south of Norman on I-35 is in the midst of a widening project. Northbound fans should anticipate congestion and delays in this area. Fans are strongly encouraged to allow extra travel time to and from the stadium and determine alternate routes in advance.

Playing on Monday Night Football, former OU quarterback Landry Jones made his second appearance of the preseason at quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers last night and threw the first touchdown pass of his professional career.

Jones, who was drafted in the fourth round earlier this year, threw for 111 yards on 9-of-22 passing and found the end zone in the fourth quarter. Facing a fourth-and-one at the Washington 10, Jones faked the handoff before drifting back and finding Derek Moye, who caught the pass around the four-yard line and made his way in for the score.

In two preseason games, Jones is 14-31 passing for 159 yards and a touchdown.

Jones finished his career as Oklahoma’s leader in most major categories, including career pass attempts, completions, passing yards and passing touchdowns.