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Berry Tramel

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Oklahoma football: Quarterback landscape changes

by Berry Tramel Modified: January 22, 2014 at 1:00 pm •  Published: January 22, 2014

Oklahoma's Kendal Thompson (1), Blake Bell (10) and Trevor Knight (9) watch drills during a Sugar Bowl practice at the New Orleans Saints' football practice facility, Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, in New Orleans. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman
Oklahoma's Kendal Thompson (1), Blake Bell (10) and Trevor Knight (9) watch drills during a Sugar Bowl practice at the New Orleans Saints' football practice facility, Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, in New Orleans. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman

OU quarterback Kendal Thompson says he’s transferring, and two immediate thoughts:

1. Can’t really blame him.

2. I love the graduate/transfer rule.

Thompson plans to graduate in May, then he would be eligible to transfer and play immediately at any school offering a graduate program not offered by OU. I’d like to see the rule changed so that graduates could transfer anywhere and get rid of the charade of finding a particular graduate program unavailable at the original school. Heck, I’m all for total free agency. Let players transfer anytime. I know it would be anarchy and I know it would be a mess, but it’s the right thing to do. And if it’s difficult on coaches, who could begin to care?

But I digress. Thompson has a chance to go play somewhere that doesn’t have a Trevor Knight in front of him.

Where will Thompson go? Some have speculated Oklahoma Baptist, where Thompson’s high school coach, Chris Jensen, is the coach. But Thompson could transfer to a school much higher up the food chain and play. Lots of schools need quarterbacking. Tulsa among them.

What does Thompson’s departure mean at OU? It means Blake Bell is less likely to switch positions, though it certainly doesn’t preclude Bell from becoming a tight end. Heck, for all we know, Bell could graduate and also transfer. Bell has shown he can play well in the right system. How many free-agent quarterbacks have won at Notre Dame and rallied a team to win in Stillwater against a top-10 arch-rival?

Of course, the Sooners have a virtual plethora of quarterbacks, in the wake of the Sugar Bowl. Knight is suddenly the entrenched starter and apparent budding star.

Two youngsters are on campus — Cody Thomas redshirted last season as a freshman, and Justice Hansen is enrolled after graduating from Edmond Santa Fe in December — and Baker Mayfield has transferred, without scholarship or even invitation, to OU from Texas Tech, where he started half the season as a true freshman. Mayfield won’t be eligible until 2015 and will be a junior then, but you can never have too many quarterbacks.

If someone wants me to guess, I’d say Bell stays and moves to tight end, but keeps one toe in quarterbacking, as an insurance policy. Knight has made five college starts and has finished only three of those games. If Knight went down for any appreciable time, I think Bob Stoops would go back to Bell, unless it was late in the season and Thomas (or even Hansen) had shown some QB  acumen.

I’m just guessing on Bell, but it seems like he’s got a much different situation than most transferring quarterbacks. Thompson, for example. Bell is a made man. He’s an OU folk hero. The only Sooner quarterback since Jimmy Harris to beat Notre Dame, plus a memorable comeback against OSU. Bell will be remembered forever by OU fans for the things he accomplished in 2013.

But the whole scenario was completely predictable. When you have a quarterback derby, there is collateral damage. We saw that in Stillwater, where Wes Lunt, Clint Chelf and J.W. Walsh shared quarterback duties in 2012, and no way was a three-way waltz going to be kosher again in 2013. Lunt is the one who headed out of town.

The OU job never got into much a three-way battle, except for Bedlam sort of, but once you’ve been in a derby, you’re not usually ready for another. In other words, if the quarterback ascension seems staggered — Bell waiting on Landry Jones, for example — then that is acceptable. But battling through a derby, only to see, at best, another competition awaiting you, isn’t so appealing.

Thompson clearly would have been the backup quarterback at OU in 2014 and would have been valuable. Same style of QB as Knight. Virtually seamless transition in terms of offense. But Thompson would rather play, and who can blame him? And he’s not a quitter. He’ll get his degree. That’s why universities exist.

by Berry Tramel
Columnist
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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