NORMAN — Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight stayed healthy while taking every offensive snap in Saturday’s season-opening rout of Louisiana Tech.
No one had to find out what OU coaches would have done if Knight, who left two of his five starts last season injured, had gone down, but such a scenario would have certainly put Bob Stoops and his staff in a tough predicament — even if Knight’s injury was relatively minor.
Until Cody Thomas is fully healed from the muscle strain that has plagued him the past couple weeks — or Texas Tech transfer Baker Mayfield wins his eligibility battle, which seems like a long shot — the Sooners really don’t have any good options at backup quarterback.
That’s not a knock on senior Blake Bell or true freshman Justice Hansen; it’s the reality of the situation. It’s also the reason why Knight stayed in for the entire game Saturday.
Thomas is expected to be 100 percent for next week’s game at Tulsa, but if he isn’t and something happens to Knight, Stoops has a decision to make: Put Bell, the converted tight end, back in his old position, or burn Hansen’s redshirt season.
With Thomas hobbled, Bell took snaps at quarterback the past couple weeks during practice. That might seem like something the senior who played quarterback his entire life would enjoy, but he made it clear early in this transition that he wanted to be fully devoted to playing tight end.
“That was one of the things I wanted to do: If I was going to go to tight end, I wanted to go full at it and work hard,” Bell said in March. “That’s what I wanted to do from now on. I’m happy that they are letting me do it.”
Splitting time between positions doesn’t do Bell any good, especially if he truly does have a future in the NFL at tight end. Being the team-first guy Bell clearly is, he would probably return to quarterback if asked to do so and never complain about it, but there’s no chance he’d be happy.
Stoops and his staff are excited about Hansen’s future, and have shown no qualms about burning redshirts for players at other positions, even if it meant minimal playing time as true freshmen. If the coaches think a player can help immediately, they’ll give them that opportunity.
But it’s different at quarterback for obvious reasons. Many of the best quarterbacks of the Stoops era — Jason White, Sam Bradford, Landry Jones and Knight, to name a few — used redshirt seasons.
Stoops named Thomas the backup quarterback a couple weeks ago, and although he was dressed out for Saturday’s game, coaches didn’t feel comfortable putting him in, even to only hand the ball off. Meanwhile, Knight stayed in the game, risking injury that — if it was serious — could derail the Sooners’ hopes of reaching the College Football Playoff.
“We had guys ready,” Stoops said Saturday. “Blake was ready to go and Justice was ready to go if we had to. It’s just kind of odd we had to finish it out that way. It’s OK. It’s one game.”