NORMAN — Inspired by the newest trends — and, obviously, a Cotton Bowl beatdown from Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel — Bob Stoops and his staff decided to go mobile at the quarterback position.
The Sooners introduced a heavy dose of the read option into their offense, taking advantage of their quarterbacks' increased quickness and athleticism. But only a game and a half into this new experiment, a West Virginia defender's helmet crashed into Trevor Knight's knee.
Junior Blake Bell will start Saturday's game against Tulsa while Knight recovers.
“Was I aware that it could happen? Sure. We're not fools,” Stoops responded when asked if this scenario concerned him while they installed the new offense.
“A lot of people seem to do it and it works pretty well. Every now and then that's going to happen.”
Of course, quarterbacks of all types are subject to injury. Landry Jones became the starter after Sam Bradford was hurt standing in the pocket.
Elite pocket passers like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have also suffered major injuries during their NFL careers. But in those systems, the goal is always to avoid giving defenses opportunities to pop the quarterback.
On option plays, signal callers are left wide open to contact, even if they choose to hand or pitch the ball to a running back.
Longtime Oklahoma high-school football official David Gore, who also works in an off-the-field role at Big 12 Conference games, said rules at every level of football allow a defender to tackle the quarterback, even after he's given the ball to someone else.
“With an effective option quarterback, if you just assume he's gonna hand the ball off, he'll eat you alive,” Gore said. “You have the opportunity to go ahead and go through with a tackle whether the quarterback has just handed the ball off or not.”