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Oklahoma football: A platoon might clear up quarterback picture

COMMENTARY — What Bob Stoops might need is to play both Blake Bell and Trevor Knight in early season games to see what the QBs do under fire.
by Berry Tramel Published: August 20, 2013

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.

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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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