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College football: With quarterbacks off limits in practice, coaches can't tell what they have

Protection of quarterbacks has become paramount not only in games, but in practice. Which has led to greater health but also greater confusion. Coaches truly don't know what they have at quarterback until the games start.
by Berry Tramel Modified: August 13, 2013 at 10:00 am •  Published: August 12, 2013

photo - OU's Blake Bell and Clint Chelf sport the
OU's Blake Bell and Clint Chelf sport the "Do not touch" practice jersey worn by many quarterbacks. PHOTOS FROM THE OKLAHOMAN ARCHIVES; PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY PHILLIP BAEZA, THE OKLAHOMAN

With Bell a mobile quarterback, and Knight even moreso (Knight has drawn rave reviews from the secret squirrels who get to watch OU practices), the blue jersey complicates things. Is a quarterback's performance limited in practice, the way Manziel's obviously was? Or is a quarterback's performance enhanced, with a gun-shy QB getting to play free knowing his rib cage won't be assaulted?

The off-limits jersey is not just a mobile quarterback issue. A pocket passer who knows he can't get hit is a different animal than a pocket passer who knows his head is hunted. Practice is flag football; games are tackle football. Big, big difference.

“Until it starts,” Stoops said of games, “yeah, it's a little bit of an unknown, definitely.”

Stoops said the Sooners tried to spice up the spring competition.

“We actually got to where instead of running by the quarterbacks, we were tagging ‘em, pushing ‘em, so they were used to somebody being there,” Stoops said.

“So we kind of already got a little closer to ‘em, trying to bother ‘em a little bit, knowing they can't hold it forever, or they better tuck it and do something with it.”

The off-limits jerseys are what made Brandon Weeden and Chelf such OSU success stories.

Gundy has admitted he wasn't enamored with either, because of their practice performance. Weeden's attitude was lackadaisical; Chelf's demeanor was low-key.

But both proved to be gamers.

Heck, when Zac Robinson was injured and unavailable for OSU's 2009 game against Colorado, Gundy famously started Alex Cate. Anyone who thought Cate and Weeden were in the same hemisphere of quarterbacking wasn't paying attention. Unless the green jerseys clouded the quarterback competition.

It happened at OSU. It happened at A&M. It could happen at OU.

Whoever starts for the Sooners on Aug. 31 against Louisiana-Monroe might turn into a superstar. Or, without the comfort of the blue jersey, he might need to be replaced sooner rather than later.

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at

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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