The Florida Gators staged a quarterback derby last August. The season opener against Bowling Green approached, and Florida coach Will Muschamp made a decision.
To extend the derby.
On Florida's first play of the season, Muschamp started Jacoby Brissett at quarterback, but he also had Jeff Driskel split wide at receiver. On the second play, Brissett left the field and Driskel moved to QB.
Driskel played the rest of the first quarter, Brissett played the second quarter and Driskel played better. So he quarterbacked the second half and, as it turns out, most of the rest of the season.
Not a bad idea. Not a bad idea at all for Bob Stoops.
The Sooners are staging their own quarterback derby, and Stoops says he'll soon name either Blake Bell or Trevor Knight to start Aug. 31 against Louisiana-Monroe.
But the truth is, if the competition's close — and there's no reason to think it's anything but close — playing both QBs would serve the Sooners well.
Not necessarily from a strategic standpoint, but from an educational standpoint. Other than the special-situation Belldozer, Bell hasn't played a meaningful snap. Knight hasn't played a snap of any kind.
Both are mobile quarterbacks who wear blue jerseys in practice and scrimmages and thus are off limits to defenses. They're going against defenses that largely know what's coming, and against defenses that aren't exactly razor sharp themselves.
Plus, Bell and Knight are competing in the comfort of secured practice grounds. How will they fare when 85,000 sets of eyeballs are watching their every move?
Way too many unknowns. Until the games start, OU coaches really have no idea what they have at quarterback. So why discover all you can about one and not both?
Go all Ernie Banks and say, let's play two.
It's not in vogue for 21st century football. An occasional college coach, like Muschamp, will try it. The NFL never does, though past coaches as esteemed as Tom Landry and George Allen platooned quarterbacks. Landry once spent a game alternating quarterbacks on every other play.
In the '90s, quarterback platoons were not all that rare. Nebraska won the 1994 national title game, playing two QBs. West Virginia went unbeaten in the 1993 regular season playing two QBs. The '96 Ohio State Buckeyes won the Rose Bowl playing two QBs. Arizona in 1998 reached the Fiesta Bowl playing two QBs.
Stoops' pal Steve Spurrier went all Tom Landry against top-ranked Florida State in 1997, and Florida pulled off a 32-29 upset as Doug Johnson and Noah Brindise shuttled in and out almost every snap.
But that was for strategic reasons. Stoops doesn't need a strategic infusion. He needs clarity.
And clarity comes on Saturdays.
That's not the situation Mike Gundy faces. In Stillwater, Gundy has two quarterbacks who have faced the fire. Both Clint Chelf and J.W. Walsh (and Wes Lunt, before his transfer) have quarterbacked multiple Big 12 games, to success. Which means Gundy has plenty of data and eyewitness accounts to make a decision. Gundy knows what he has.
Stoops does not. Stoops' quarterbacks have been on the driving range and the putting green. They have yet to stand on the tee box.
The same thing occurred in 2005, when Paul Thompson and Rhett Bomar battled for the job in August. Stoops announced Thompson as the starter but said both would play against TCU in the season opener. Both did play — poorly, and OU lost 17-10. Bomar started the next week and kept that status the rest of the season.
Stoops said he resorted to a planned platoon in that 2005 season opener “just to get a feel for both of 'em, because a lot of times, we like both of 'em or feel both of 'em are capable of winning and sometimes don't feel like at that point, where neither one has played a whole bunch, they've got a chance to help take some pressure off the other guy.”
Again, I'm not advocating a platoon system. I'm calling for platooning until the quarterbacks decide the race for themselves, which is always the preferred method.
If takes a game or two or even three, so be it. When the gauntlet of Notre Dame (Sept. 28), TCU (Oct. 5) and Texas (Oct. 12) arrive, Stoops needs to know who is his best quarterback, instead of just hoping he made the right decision.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 newsok.com/berrytramel.