NORMAN — Oklahoma revealed few definitive plans for its 2013 offense during Saturday's spring game, won 28-24 by the White team via a confusing, arbitrary scoring system.
OU's three quarterback contenders — Blake Bell, Kendal Thompson and Trevor Knight — each led touchdown drives, commanding a basic, vanilla version of the Sooners' offensive attack. Coaches insisted afterward no decisions would be made based purely on the scrimmage, watched by 29,200 fans.
But one thing was made abundantly clear Saturday: Regardless of who quarterbacks Oklahoma in its season opener Aug. 31 against Louisiana-Monroe, the Sooner offense will take advantage of increased mobility at the position in the post-Landry Jones era.
“I'm pleased with it,” said OU coach Bob Stoops. “That's something that always can help you. It adds a dimension to your passing game. It adds a dimension to your run game. It's definitely something all these guys can run, that will give us a few wrinkles and will give us a different dimension we haven't had a lot of.”
For all Oklahoma achieved the past four seasons because of Jones' right arm, his legs never posed much danger for opposing defenses.
Bell's first score Saturday, on the other hand, perfectly showcased what Oklahoma coaches hope to see more of next season. The junior escaped pressure, kept the play alive for several seconds while rolling right toward the sideline, pump-faked, spotted Durron Neal in the end zone and fired a 3-yard touchdown pass.
“Having a quarterback that can extend a play is a really good thing for our offense,” Neal said. “It's gonna put a lot of pressure on defenses. We're told, when the quarterback scrambles, just find a hole. If he's scrambling, turn it up and just sit in a hole and then trust him to find you.”
Bell completed 14 of 23 passes for 213 yards with two touchdowns Saturday. Thompson, a sophomore, went 8 of 15 for 86 yards and a touchdown.
Knight, a redshirt freshman, was 11 of 17, with 151 yards and a score.
OU co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel dialed up a few designed quarterback runs, but improvisation allowed much of the trio's rushing success. Thompson finished with 35 rushing yards on eight carries, while Knight rushed seven times for 36 yards.
“Guys did a good job today stepping up in the pocket and getting out of it,” Heupel said of his quarterbacks' scrambling. “Through the spring, those guys have been fairly consistent, as far as tucking it when it was the right opportunity.”
Quarterback mobility hasn't been prevalent during Stoops' Oklahoma tenure. Jason White arrived on campus a running threat, but tore ACLs in consecutive seasons, lost some of his mobility and won the 2003 Heisman Trophy as a pure pocket passer.
When Stoops and Heupel recruit quarterbacks, strong passing ability remains the top prerequisite for a scholarship offer.
“We want mobile quarterbacks here, but (Stoops) has made sure to make it a point that we're not going to give anything up in the pass game while recruiting that type of kid,” Heupel said.
Bell started the spring game, Thompson played second and Knight third. Heupel cautioned not to read too much into Saturday's pecking order, which he said was determined by age.
Asked if coaches are privately beginning to get a sense for which quarterback will win the competition, Heupel said, “No, when somebody has earned it, then that's when we'll name a guy.”
“No, when somebody has earned it, we'll name a guy,” Heupel repeated.
Oklahoma wraps up its spring football session with Tuesday's unpadded practice. Judging from Sooner coaches' comments Saturday, the quarterback battle appears destined to rage on through summer workouts and fall camp.
Despite that, Heupel said the similarities between Bell, Thompson and Knight are helpful for coaches as they work to implement offensive changes.
“Today they were all under the same type of game plan,” Heupel said. “You see them out there and subtly they're different. But for the most part you can group them as the same type of quarterback.”