But the truth is, coaches are loathe to alternate quarterbacks. Even the new trend of situational substitution – OU’s Belldozer, the Wildcat that has ebbed and flowed the last few years – can cause some tension.
Platooning quarterbacks was much more popular a generation or two ago. Why the change?
“There’s a lot of reasons,” Bob Stoops said. “Probably just getting the continuity with the one guy on the field, I guess is one of the reasons.
“I still believe there’s a place for it. When you go through a long season, sometimes you need more than one guy.”
OU center Gabe Ikard said, “the only thing I could really think of that would be bad about it is, quarterbacks usually get into a rhythm and kind of get going throughout a game. If you want to put a guy on the field and take him off the field, both players might suffer a little bit getting into a rhythm. But we’ve got two guys that can definitely play on the field and can both get on the field in the game.”
Those two guys, of course, are Blake Bell and Trevor Knight, who are in quite the quarterback derby.
But Ikard said that in the past two years, when Bell was inserted for the Belldozer package, rhythm was not affected.
“That was very smooth,” Ikard said. “We knew there was a handful of plays we were gonna run. Everybody loved that package because you knew what you were going to do. You knew it was short yardage and it was an important play in the game. We all really liked that package. I’m not really sure what’s going to happen with that. But both quarterbacks, either way, doesn’t matter, those guys are both very capable of making big plays on the field.”
Stoops seemed to downplay the possibility of planning to use both quarterbacks, unless it was a Belldozer or equivalent.
Stoops also acknowledged that the intensity is mounting for both players. “There’s pressure there, and there has been probably moreso the last three, four days, knowing it’s getting closer. And we’re aware of that.”
That’s why I advocate playing both and letting them settle it on the field. Who plays better in games?
“Ultimately, that decision is down to the coaches,” Ikard said. “As an offensive lineman, I’m going to keep my mouth shout.”
But Stoops theorized that the practice competition can pay off even in future seasons. He referred to the 2005 quarterback competition, when Paul Thompson and Rhett Bomar waged a battle that went deep into August. Thompson was named the starter, but Bomar started every game after the season opener against TCU. Thompson moved to wide receiver in mid-season. A year later, Bomar was dismissed from the team, Thompson moved back to quarterback and led OU to a Big Eight title.
“Just think all that development, all that quarterback competition for Paul Thompson, maybe we’re not Big 12 champs in 2006, when we remove our quarterback and he takes over, without any snaps in the spring,” Stoops said. “So it served its place even the next year.”
One other point about platooning. Stoops said that unless the quarterbacks are vastly different in styles – which Knight and Bell are not – there is not much advantage in making defenses work on both.
“Only when you’d have one that’s zone read/option type guy that can do all that, and the other guy, their style changes and they’re more of a pocket, I team,” Stoops said. “Only when the style of offense changes. When the style of offenses doesn’t change, it really isn’t that much of a headache, other than one guy’s hot and one guy isn’t.”