"He’s a guy it seems like every day he’s getting better,” said running back Chris Brown. "You see him over there on the ladder drill working on footwork, or after lifting weights he’s doing extra stuff. That motivates other guys on the team. With his leadership, we should have a lot of guys wanting to step up and do good things.
"We all know he is a great player, but it’s the leadership that’s tremendous right now and very noticeable.”
Bradford’s improvement, however, may not manifest itself into better statistics. After all, last year he led the nation with 50 touchdown passes and a 180.84 quarterback rating, and this season the Sooners return only one starter on the offensive line in Williams and only one starter at receiver in Ryan Broyles.
But former Sooner quarterback Jason White, who won the Heisman in 2003, said he was a superior quarterback in 2004 even though his overall numbers dipped.
"In 2004, I became a better all-around quarterback on and off the field; I did my job better,” White said. "I have no doubt in my mind Sam is going to be a better quarterback. Maybe he doesn’t have better numbers; I didn’t have better numbers. But I felt like I managed the game better. I believe he will, too, and that’s what is most important.”
Then again, Bradford has exceeded statistical expectations twice before.
In 2007, few predicted Bradford would begin his career the way he did, throwing for a NCAA-freshman record 36 touchdowns.
Leading up to the following season, Heupel was asked over and over whether it was possible for Bradford to improve as a sophomore. Not only did Bradford improve, he won the Heisman.
"He’s a better player now than he was at the beginning of the spring,” Heupel said. "Is that going to roll over into better numbers? I couldn’t foresee that from his freshman to sophomore year; I can’t foresee that from his sophomore to junior year.
"But he’s definitely a better football player.”
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