We heard from the OU quarterbacks Saturday after the spring game. First time they’ve talked all spring. Nothing really revelating, but here’s what they said and I heard.
Blake Bell, on being a veteran with an experience edge: “I’d just say most of that is just learning from a guy like Landry (Jones). That’s one thing he did, he kept the ball all the time and threw it and stuff like that. Big games too, like the Notre Dame game. Just different games, seeing it and getting out there. I wasn’t running the offense or anything , but just being out there. That fourth-and-two against Notre Dame, you remember things like that.”
Like I wrote for the Sunday Oklahoman, which you can read here, I saw a different Bell on Saturday than in the past. I think the Belldozer in some ways pigeon-holed Bell as a big, burly quarterback. A slimmer version of that Kentucky moose, Jared Lorenzen, from a few years back. But that’s not Bell at all. Bell is a throwing quarterback who is quite mobile. The real question about Bell is how good of a thrower he will be. Bell looked good Saturday. But we’ll find out in the 2013 season.
Bell on his passing performance: “Overall I thought I made some good plays and was pretty accurate with the ball. I had some throw-a -ways, but like I said, I can always get better in a lot of areas.”
Throwaways are no small part of the equation. I like the throwaway. These guys — Bell, Kendal Thompson, Trevor Knight — all are mobile. So they are loathe to give up on a play. But sometimes, a quarterback needs to dump the ball into the student section and move on to the next play, even if it’s a punt. Bell did that Saturday (so did Thompson), and that’s a good thing.
Bell on not making mistakes: “Yeah, as a quarterback you want to do that. You just limit your turnovers and bad plays, you’re giving yourself a chance to win. I think all three quarterbacks just make that an emphasis. Just not turning the ball over. We would rather get it to the other guys instead of us taking it.”
The Red-White Game was something south of vanilla. Flavorless on both offense and defense. Some mainstays sitting out. Little in the way of offensive ingenuity. Few defensive adjustments. Just basic football. So hard to get a gauge on how the quarterbacks did in terms of limiting mistakes. Blitzes are designed to produce mistakes. But Bell looked solid at staying away from mistakes. Very solid.
But Bell also talked about the balance of not playing too conservative: “There are times that you have to go down field and take a shot; and there’s times where you come down and check down. At the same time once you start thinking like that, you start wanting to push, and that’s when you start making the most mistakes. You just have to take it one play at a time.”
He’s right. These quarterbacks can’t go all conservative. They’ve got to make plays. But a big play does not offset a major mistake. They’ve got to produce a good number of big plays with a minimal amount of mistakes.
Bell on the quarterback derby: “It’s been fun. All three of us are around each other for, it seems like, 24 hours a day. But we have fun with it. We know we’re competing but you’re going to be competing at any school in the country. We have three good guys just competing and having fun with it and we’re all just going to work hard each and every day and that’s all we can do.”
Knight on the quarterback derby: “I went out here today and it was my first meaningful snaps in front of fans, which is a dream come true. I made a lot of mistakes and I made a few plays. The good thing is we don’t play next week, we don’t have a game, so we have the whole summer. As for the competition, we’re working hard every single day, and like coach Heupel’s been saying, the guy that makes the least mistakes is the guy who’s going to lead the team. All three of us are going to push forward, we have fun together, and we’re friends, but like they said before, it’s a competition. I’m going to work my hardest in the summer and into fall camp and see where we end up.”
Thompson on the quarterback derby: ”Coach Heupel reiterates that every day. We are competing against each other, but at the same time we have to support each other and that will help all three of us as a group.”
You know, I don’t think we appreciate the tough situation these guys are in, both in Norman and Stillwater and everywhere there’s a quarterback derby. Much of the time, these guys are friends. Yet they’re in a spirited competition with high consequences. It’s not easy. The mental and social demands are tough.
Knight on the difficulty of letting the game come to him: “Getting into a new offense, obviously you’re going to deal with nerves. I think I’ve made strides throughout the spring and I’m getting more comfortable with the guys and more comfortable with the offense. It’s starting to be second nature, as long as I just keep studying my playbook and getting reps with those guys I think it will come.”
I thought Knight clearly looked the most skittish Saturday. The dropped shotgun snap in the end had to give Bob Stoops the willies. A replay of Landry Jones’ fumble on that scramble against Kansas State.
Knight on the blue jersey and how it might impede the quarterbacks, who aren’t supposed to be hit but who also aren’t allowed to break tackles or juke defenders: “You take the blue jersey off, you might have the chance to make a play. Like Kendal said, you might get dinged up. But if you take the blue jersey off, you might make that big play, but like Blake said, we want to get it in our playmakers’ hands. We do have the ability to run, which we haven’t had here in the past, but we want to get the ball in our playmakers’ hands because they’ll make the plays for us.”
That’s the trouble with going last. You end up repeating what other guys say.
Knight on making mistakes: “I feel like it’s that simple. If you make no mistakes and put the ball in your playmakers’ hands, you have a really good chance of winning. I want the ball in one of my wide receivers’ hands, Jalen Saunders, Damien William, those types of guys. They’re more explosive than I am. So yeah, we want to make few mistakes, fewest turnovers so you’re most likely to win the ball game.”
Excellent point by Knight. For all the talk about the mobile quarterbacks, Bob Stoops does NOT want his QBs running all over the place. Occasionally, yes. But Knight is right. Get the ball to the guys who are really good at running with it.
Knight on making big throws to Troy Metoyer: “That’s just guys making plays for you. I needed that drive obviously for confidence and everything. I felt more comfortable throughout the day and that’s obvious. The more reps, the more comfortable you feel. Those guys outside are going to make big plays for you. They’re all making plays for us, they’re doing a good job.”
Speaking of Metoyer. He made a couple of nice catches. But he also had a couple of dubious drops. Time to produce.
Thompson on his play Saturday: “You always see things that through the game you can improve on. In the quarterback room, we were just treating this like another practice, but you get to go out there and compete against the defense. So we are working hard to improve as a group and move forward from today into two-a-days in the summer.”
OK, enough of that. The Red-White Game is not just another practice. It’s played in front of 20,000 fans incredibly interested how these guys perform. The lights are on.
Thompson on his mobility: “When I move, it’s just when the protection breaks down. For the most part, the line did a great job. When I feel like I need to get out, coach Heupel always says don’t hesitate to move when you need to. I feel like I threw the ball well when I did. Us (the quarterbacks) and the receivers need to get some more continuity in the summer and that will continue to get better.”
I love this. And I think Stoops will, too. Thompson talking about running only when the protection breaks down. I think that’s exactly what Stoops prefers.
Thompson on his strengths and weaknesses: “I’d say my greatest strength is my mental aspect of the game. I really like to pick things apart and see things in that nature. Things I need to work on are the command of everything overall, my reads — just the stuff that coach Heupel always gets on us for — things I need to get better at.”
Interesting answer. If that really is Thompson’s strength, that bodes well for his future.
Thompson on figuring out when to scramble and when to stay in the pocket: “I prefer to stay in the pocket, as do most quarterbacks. When I’m out there, you don’t have time to think about it. It’s a split second decision. If I have to pull it down, I pull it down and then just play ball from there.”
That split-second decision is interesting. It’s instinct. You can’t teach that. Sort of goes back to Landry Jones’ pocket presence. The happy feet syndrome. Can’t really teach that. Either you’ve got pocket presence or you don’t. Either you’ve got the innate ability to know when to break from the pocket, or you don’t.