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Oklahoma football: Barry Switzer says both QBs will "have to play"

by Berry Tramel Published: August 21, 2013

I chatted with Barry Switzer twice Wednesday. On the phone in the morning, then on the radio in the afternoon, alongside Jim Traber and Al Eschbach.

We talked about Switzer’s hip replacement surgery, which you can read here, but also lots of quarterback talk. Here’s what I found interesting about Switzer’s observations:

* Switzer said both Trevor Knight and Blake Bell “are going to have to play” to discover who can best move the team.

* Switzer talked about the Thomas Lott/Dean Blevins quarterback derby of 1976. Blevins was a junior, Lott a sophomore.

Blevins started the first few games, was sidelined by illness and Lott became the starter and never let go of the job.

“We started Dean,” Switzer said. “Dean had earned that chance. We knew Thomas Lott was going to be a great player. Dean knew it, too.”

Interesting. Switzer didn’t mean that Blevins earned that chance in August drills. He meant Blevins had earned the chance over a couple of seasons.

Which makes it very relevant for 2013, when fourth-year junior Bell is battling redshirt freshman Knight. People who have seen practice say Knight looks the better quarterback, but Bob Stoops hasn’t announced a decision.

Is it because of Bell’s seniority? Because Bell has earned “that chance”?

Seniority is a dicey thing in football. Coaches are compelled to play the best player. But politically, it’s tough to play a younger player over an older player.

Switzer said the upperclassman has “more experience in practice and games, gives you an edge.”

Switzer did admit that a younger player “better be better” if he’s to win the job.”

* When finally giving the job to Lott, Switzer said, “I felt for Dean, felt for the family (which was from Norman), but you gotta make the right decision. Everybody understands that.”

* Switzer talked about the elevation of Steve Davis 40 years ago, in 1973, after Kerry Jackson was ruled ineligible. But Switzer reminded us of who he wanted to play quarterback.

“I wanted Mark Harmon,” Switzer said.

Yep, that Mark Harmon. The Mark Harmon who has been a Hollywood actor since the mid-‘70s, with his most prominent roles in vaunted television series “St. Elsewhere,” Chicago Hope” and “NCIS.”

Harmon, the son of 1940 Michigan Heisman Trophy winner Tom Harmon, was a star quarterback at UCLA in 1972 and 1973. Switzer tried to recruit Harmon out of high school in California, but Harmon instead went to a junior college, then UCLA.

“I thought I was going to get Mark Harmon,” Switzer said. “Busted my rear end. Mark probably would have been our quarterback following (Jack) Mildren.”

* Switzer talked of “the biggest mistake” he ever made recruiting. Not going to Fort Worth the night before signing day, to make sure Turner Gill signed with the Sooners in 1980.

I knew that story. But I didn’t know that Switzer had sent baseball coach Enos Semore to oversee the Gill signing. And Nebraska whisked away Gill from OU. The course of Big Eight football was changed.

* On the Kelly Phelps/Darrell Shepard rotation – which was spurred by injury as much as anything – in 1981, Switzer said, “Shepard was a pretty good player. Probably should have played him more.”

No kidding. I said the same thing, and I was a 20-year-old sportswriter. Anyone could see that Shepard was something special.

* The flexbone of 1984, an offshoot of the wishbone that helped the transition back from the I formation of Marcus Dupree, was used because offensive coordinator Mack Brown didn’t want to use the triple option. The double option, with no fullback decision, was Brown’s desire.


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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