NORMAN — If a few things had gone differently, quarterback Bryce Petty could very well have played Thursday night's top-10 showdown between Baylor and Oklahoma in crimson and cream.
“He was a good player coming out with a strong arm,” said OU co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel.
Petty, from Midlothian, Texas, went through a strange, up-and-down recruiting experience. He committed to Tennessee in June 2008 after attending several camps, including Oklahoma's.
He hadn't received a scholarship offer from the Sooners when he committed to the Volunteers. But a few months later, Tennessee fired coach Phillip Fulmer and hired Lane Kiffin, who called Petty and said he wouldn't fit in Kiffin's system.
Petty was left scrambling for an opportunity, as many of his favorite schools — Oklahoma included — had moved on and didn't have room. The Sooners had a commitment from Drew Allen for the class of 2009.
Allen spent four years in Norman behind Landry Jones on the depth chart, and transferred to Syracuse for the 2013 season after it became apparent that he didn't have a future at Oklahoma.
“We had him here in the summertime,” Heupel said, adding that after Petty committed to Tennessee, OU coaches never pursued him again.
Petty told Rivals.com in December 2008, though, that Oklahoma coaches had reached out and said if Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford declared for the NFL Draft, they might be interested again. Bradford, of course, returned for another season.
Baylor offered Petty the chance to “greyshirt,” meaning he didn't join the team until January 2010. After sitting behind Robert Griffin III and Nick Florence for a few seasons, Petty earned the starting job in 2013 and has been superb.
He's thrown for 2,453 yards and 18 touchdowns with only one interception, and has also rushed for six scores.
Oklahoma, on the other hand, has struggled through some inconsistent play at the position in 2013 after four solid years with Jones at the helm.
Redshirt freshman Trevor Knight won the job in the preseason, but struggled through his two starts and was replaced by junior Blake Bell.
Bell looked excellent in some games — wins over Tulsa, Notre Dame and Texas Tech — and didn't play as well in others, most notably the Sooners' 36-20 loss to Texas last month.
Petty, meanwhile, has turned into the Big 12 Conference's best quarterback and has the undefeated Bears in the national-title picture.
“A physically mature kid when he was coming out, and he's turned into a great player,” Heupel said of Petty.