NORMAN — In each of Oklahoma's three spring football practices so far, a different quarterback took the majority of first-team snaps.
“Until guys separate themselves and have earned something, then they all deserve a chance,” said OU co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel.
Oklahoma coaches seem fully intent on making the race to replace four-year starter Landry Jones a true competition between junior Blake Bell, sophomore Kendal Thompson and redshirt freshman Trevor Knight.
None of the three OU quarterbacks were made available to reporters after Tuesday's practice, and they'll remain off-limits until the April 13 spring game.
Other OU offensive players, though, spoke about the competition Tuesday.
“I like to egg it on and really push them, and see who wants it more and wants to break out,” said senior running back Damien Williams. “No one has broke out yet.”
Last year's spring game was Bell's first — and, so far, only — true opportunity to publicly show the passing ability that is paramount to Oklahoma's offensive system.
He completed 14 of 19 passes for 179 yards and a touchdown that day, and seemed to take firm control of the Sooners' backup quarterback job.
Last season, though, he only saw the field in short-yardage or goal-line situations in the “Belldozer” package.
“He's a great runner,” said senior fullback Trey Millard. “At the same time, definitely to be the quarterback we need, he needs to throw the ball, too.
“He can, and I think you all will be able to see that soon.”
Those running skills — which Knight and Thompson also possess — could make the Sooners' offense more dangerous, though. For all of Jones' strengths, mobility was never one of them.
“It adds another attack that defenses have to prepare for,” Millard said. “It makes our offense more lethal.”
Heupel said Oklahoma's offense will ultimately be tailored to fit the person who earns the quarterback job.
“At the end of the day, whoever our guy is, we're going to do things they have a chance to be successful with, they're comfortable with and can execute at a high level,” Heupel said. “I think our guys may be able to use their feet a little bit more than we have in the past here.”
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops has never been quick to name a starting quarterback, or even a second-teamer. Last season, despite Bell's strong spring game performance, Stoops waited until the middle of fall camp to announce that Bell would be Jones' primary backup.
The last quarterback competition — which produced eventual Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford — lasted until late in Oklahoma's 2007 two-a-day practices.
Millard, Bell's roommate and one of his closest friends, said he “definitely” thinks the junior is mentally prepared for this moment.
“He's got so much publicity already, and I think he's definitely ready to step into the whole role and take it all on,” Millard said.