NORMAN — Bob Stoops says the OU quarterback job is open. Stoops kept a straight face, but he didn't keep the twinkle out of his eye.
Even if Blake Bell wasn't moving to tight end and Kendal Thompson wasn't moving to a new campus, everyone knows the Sooners would be casting their lots with Trevor Knight, the quarterback who beat Alabama in the Sugar Bowl with 348 passing yards and four TD passes.
But OU will stage another quarterback derby this spring. The backup quarterback job is open.
With Bell changing positions and Thompson changing schools and Texas Tech refugee Baker Mayfield ineligible until 2015, two players making their spring practice debuts, freshmen Cody Thomas and Justice Hansen, will duel for the No. 2 quarterback role.
Which is no small thing considering Knight's history. Knight has made five college starts; he finished three of those games, having been knocked out of both West Virginia and OSU. Sixty percent is not a great ratio.
Of course, if Knight is struck by early season calamity, Bell's tight end days are over. A guy who's quarterbacked wins at South Bend and Stillwater, the latter over a sixth-ranked team, is rather handy as an emergency QB.
But maybe Knight will stay healthy, Bell will stay at tight end and he can go for the Bedlam trifecta. Bell beat the Cowboys in 2012 by running for a late TD. He beat the Cowboys in 2013 by throwing for a late TD. Can he beat the Cowboys in 2014 by catching a late TD?
OU offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said that “obviously with the way Trevor played, (Bell) felt like that was the way things were going to go.”
With the Sooners playing a bunch of young defenders and with an offensive line losing little to eligibility, the 2013 season seemed to be a year in which OU's primary quest was to find a quarterback of the future.
Finally, in the Sugar Bowl, it happened.
“People who questioned whether or not he could throw the football early in the year saw him grow as a passer and he's obviously got a great future,” Heupel said. “We want to be able to distribute the ball. If you're going to win a championship, your quarterback's going to have to make plays within the pocket.”
Knight showed he can do that, as well as run like a deer. So there is no first-string derby this spring.
Even Stoops, while bluffing about the open job, said, “Definitely with the positive momentum with how Trevor played, we want to try to build on that.”
But after Knight, the Sooner quarterback stable gets barren quickly.
Thomas, a redshirt freshman in the autumn, also will play baseball this spring. Don't expect him to miss any spring football; maybe that was kosher in 1954, but not in 2014.
Hansen, who graduated a semester early from Edmond Santa Fe, will join the backup derby.
But look how quickly QB depth can disappear. When the Mayfield reports surfaced a few weeks ago, we all thought he was nuts. Going to a place with five quarterbacks, three of whom had played, two of whom had taken down the likes of Alabama and Notre Dame, and one of those had three years eligibility remaining?
Now Mayfield looks like he'll be in the mix for the backup derby in spring 2015.
Quarterback landscapes can change fast. As we learned down the stretch of the 2013 OU season.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.