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Berry Tramel  


Oklahoma football: Sooners have prospered with unproven quarterbacks

by Berry Tramel Modified: July 10, 2013 at 4:15 pm •  Published: July 10, 2013

during the annual Spring Football Game at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Okla., on Saturday, April 13, 2013. Photo by Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman
during the annual Spring Football Game at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Okla., on Saturday, April 13, 2013. Photo by Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman

OU breaks in a new quarterback this season for the first time in six years. Landry Jones replaced Sam Bradford midway through the 2009 season opener against Brigham Young when Slingin’ Sammy suffered a shoulder injury. Landry wasn’t broken in; he was thrown in.

Barring complications, Blake Bell will start for the Sooners, but even if it’s Kendal Thompson or Trevor Knight, it will be a quarterback yearling leading OU. Bell’s Belldozer experience is more reminiscent of a tailback than a quarterback.

So how has OU done in years in which it breaks in a new QB? Rather well. Going back to the post-Bud Wilkinson/Gomer Jones era, which encompasses 47 seasons, OU has gone into a season with a new quarterback 18 times. Which is a remarkably low number.

In those 18 seasons, OU has won six conference titles and tied for another (1976). Bob Stoops has broken in a new quarterback five times; he’s won two conference titles (2007, 2006) and had a great team another time (2001).

That might sound optimistic, but the truth is, the Sooners – like most teams – do better with a veteran quarterback. In the 29 seasons when OU entered with an established QB, the Sooners have won 12 outright conference titles and tied for three others. So the ratio definitely is better with an experienced quarterback.

Here are the seasons since 1965 when OU entered without a veteran quarterback:

2007: 11-3, Big 12 champs. Sam Bradford took over and was an immediate success. The Sooners suffered an upset loss at Colorado (it happens) and were popped at Texas Tech when Bradford suffered an early concussion.

2006: 11-3, Big 12 champs. Paul Thompson moved back from receiver in August, after Rhett Bomar was booted from the team, and OU staged a memorable title run, losing only to Oregon in dubious fashion, Texas and BoiseState.

2005: 8-5, tied for second in the Big 12 South. Thompson started the opener, then Bomar took over and OU struggled much of the year, though it knocked off fifth-ranked Oregon in the Holiday Bowl.

2001: 11-2, second in the Big 12 South. First Nate Hybl, then Jason White, and finally back to Hybl as the Sooners suffered through unfortunate quarterback injuries and offensive inefficiency.

1999: 8-5, tied for second in the Big 12 South. Bob Stoops’ first OU season included a breakout offense, led by Josh Heupel.

1998: 5-6, tied for fourth in the Big 12 South. Started off the season with Brandon Daniels running some kind of half-baked option, but OU quickly bailed on that and went down another depressing season.

1995: 5-5-1, tied for fifth in the Big Eight. Howard Schnellenberger made redshirt freshman Eric Moore the starter over incumbent Garrick McGee, and the Sooners staggered most of the season, even failing to score their final quarters of the year.

1994: 6-6, fourth in the Big Eight. McGee, a junior-college transfer from Northeastern A&M, played well at times, but a brutal schedule kept the Sooners from prosperity.

1989: 7-4, third in the Big Eight. OU opened the season with Steve Collins at quarterback. Injuries forced the Sooners to use three; but unlike the 2012 OSU Cowboys, the offense didn’t thrive.

1985: 11-1, national champions. The Sooners started the year with a new quarterback in Troy Aikman and ended the year with a new quarterback in freshman Jamelle Holieway. Despite some hairy moments, OU flourished.

1983: 8-4, tied for second in the Big Eight. Danny Bradley took over the offense; he eventually would be the 1984 Big Eight offensive player of the year. But in ’83, OU struggled. Even was shut out at Missouri.

1981: 7-4-1, second in the Big Eight. OU started with Kelly Phelps and ended with Darrell Shepard, and the Sooner wishbone had its worst season ever.

1979: 11-1, Big Eight champs. J.C. Watts took over the OU wishbone. He could play a little.

1976: 9-2-1, tri-champs of the Big Eight. Dean Blevins started the year and eventually was replaced by Thomas Lott. The offense was slow to find its groove.

1973: 10-0-1, Big Eight champs. Unheralded Steve Davis took over after Kerry Jackson was declared ineligible in April. Davis lost one game in three years.

1972: 11-1, Big Eight champs. Patient veteran Dave Robertson took over and kept the new OU wishbone humming.

1969: 6-4, fourth in the Big Eight. Heralded sophomore Jack Mildren struggled in his debut season, though things would improve greatly.

1966: 6-4, fourth in the Big Eight. Sophomore Bobby Warmack quarterbacked; after a 4-0 start, OU lost four of its final six games, including three by a total of seven points.


by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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