Sooner Football 2015 Position Breakdown: Quarterback


Consistency and stability at the quarterback has been a concern at Oklahoma for the last two seasons, and it appears as if it could still be an issue for Sooner football heading into the 2015 season.

Four quarterbacks were in the mix for 2015 at the start of spring practice in March. Head coach Bob Stoops and new offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley were hopeful that someone would emerge as the front runner with his performance in the spring game, but that didn’t happen.

Redshirt junior Trevor Knight was the starter most of last season, but was not nearly as sharp as he was in the 2014 Sugar Bowl win over Alabama the year before and was positively dreadful against Clemson in the Russell Athletic Bowl to bring last season to crushing end.

Apr 11, 2015; Norman, OK, USA; Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Trevor Knight (9) runs in for a touchdown during the spring football game at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports

Baker Mayfield, the transfer from Texas Tech, looked very good in the 2014 spring game, although he was unable to play last season because of NCAA transfer rules. The 6-2 junior was less sharp in this year’s spring game. He completed 10 of 13 passes for 176 yards in the annual Red-White spring scrimmage, but also threw two interceptions, which was a problem area for him at Texas Tech.

In eight games for the Red Raiders in 2013, Mayfield threw for 12 touchdowns, but also had nine passes picked off.

Knight was 6 for 13 for 78 yards in the spring game, and sophomore Cody Thomas, who filled in for the injured Knight in the final three games of the regular season a year ago, turned in a passing stat line of 5 for 12 for 83 yards in his spring performance. Both Knight and Thomas threw an interception in the spring scrimmage.

A fourth quarterback prospect, freshman Justice Hansen, also saw action in the spring game, but probably sensing that his chances of earning playing time over the other three QB candidates would be greatly restricted, has subsequently decided to transfer.

Mayfield, more of a pocket passer than the other OU starting QB prospects, is probably the better fit in offensive coordinator Riley’s quick-strike, spread offense, but he did little to seize the starting job in the spring.

“If somebody is a clear-cut guy (for the starting QB job), then we’d probably say so. That’s not the case.” —Bob Stoops

As a result, the quarterback battle will continue through fall practice, and we won’t know who will draw the starting assignment for the Sept. 5 season opener until sometime prior to the kickoff of the new season.

This situation doesn’t trouble Bob Stoops in the least. “We’ve had pretty good quarterback play when you look at our 16 seasons here,” Stoops told Athlon Sports for is annual college football preview publication. “We’ve had a lot of quality quarterbacks that have won championships, that have won awards, and on and on.

“If somebody is a clear-cut guy, then we’ll probably say so,” the OU head coach said. “That’s not the case, and there’s so many practices to come.”

My guess is that Mayfield will get the nod when all is said an done, but Stoops & Co. are not ready to make that call just yet.

Berry Tramel, a sports columnist for the Oklahoma City Oklahoman has an interesting take on the OU quarterback mystery, as he describes it. “The key to OU football this season,” Tramel writes, “is not who, but how. How will the quarterback play, no matter who it is.”

The former OU championship quarterbacks to which Stoops is referring are Josh Heupel, who led the Sooners to their seventh national Championship in 2000, and Heisman Trophy winners Jason White (2001-04) and Sam Bradford (2007-09). White played in two BCS national championship games, and Bradford led the Sooners to a national championship clash against Florida in the 2008 season.

Landry Jones, now a backup QB for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the NFL followed Bradford at the controls of the Sooners’ offense, which he led for three-plus seasons. After Jones left OU, everyone expected that the “Belldozer,” Blake Bell, would inherit the role for the 2013 season.

But then a funny thing happened on the way to the 2013 season opener. Knight, then a redshirt freshman, beat out Bell in the preseason and started the season as the Sooners’ No. 1 quarterback. Knight offered a dual-threat capability at the position, something OU had not really had at the position dating practically all the way back to the Wishbone era under legendary coach Barry Switzer.

But to be very frank, Knight’s skill running with the football is much better than his passing ability. In fact, it was running the football that led to an injury in the Sooners’ second game of 2013 and put Knight on the sidelines. In those two games, Knight completed just 21 of 48 passes combined for under 200 yards.

Bell took over for the injured Knight late in the second game in 2013 and quarterbacked the Sooners to five wins over the next seven games. The Belldozer suffered an injury against Iowa State that season and was replaced by Knight, who led the Sooners to wins in their last three games of the regular season and a  stunning blowout over highly favored Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.

Knight may have turned in the game of his career in the Alabama win, throwing for over 300 yards and four touchdowns against a very good Crimson Tide defense. On the basis of that convincing victory, some college football experts immediately elevated the Sooners into a preseason top-5 ranking for the 2014 season.

More from OU Football

Nice while it lasted, as they say, but it didn’t, as Sooner fans are painfully reminded.

With a new offensive coordinator, a new offensive scheme and philosophy, it’s logical to conclude that we’ll be seeing another new face – at least in an OU jersey – at the quarterback position to begin the 2015 season.

Upgrades are necessary in numerous areas if OU is to return to a championship level. It is pretty clear, however, that any improvement the Sooners are able to make in 2015 must start at the quarterback position.

Next up, we will examine one of the Sooner strong suits heading into 2015: running back.