NORMAN — And then there were two.
Sophomore quarterback Kendal Thompson suffered a right-foot fracture, coach Bob Stoops confirmed Thursday, creating a two-man race between junior Blake Bell and redshirt freshman Trevor Knight to be Oklahoma’s starting quarterback when it opens the 2013 season Aug. 31 on Owen Field against Louisiana-Monroe.
“We’re optimistic that Kendal will return early in the season,” Stoops said in a news release. “Kendal will undergo a surgical procedure today. He has a very positive outlook and is eager to rejoin his teammates on the field as soon as possible.”
Thompson (6-foot-1, 191 pounds), the son of former OU quarterback Charles Thompson, starred at Southmoore High as a sophomore and junior before a knee strain cost him most of his senior season.
He redshirted as an OU true freshman in 2011, but fell off many fans’ radar in 2012 as Knight shined on the Sooners’ scout team and Bell continued rushing for touchdowns in the popular “Belldozer” package.
With prolific four-year starter Landry Jones in the NFL, the common thought was Bell entered 2013 as the odds-on favorite to replace him, but that he might face a challenge from Knight.
Thompson, though, made his mark throughout spring practices, standing out with his impressive athleticism and underrated arm. By the end of the spring, some close to the program believed Thompson had become the primary challenger to Bell.
All three quarterbacks led a touchdown drive in the spring game; Thompson completed 8 of 15 passes for 86 yards and a touchdown.
“You can always see things you could’ve done better,” Thompson said after the spring game. “All us quarterbacks were just treating this as another practice and for us to compete against the defense. We’re working hard as group to improve and we’ll move forward from today and continue on through the spring and then the summer and two-a-days.”
But Thompson had a rough few months between the spring game and Thursday, when OU officially opened its preseason camp. He was arrested in early May on complaints of public intoxication and interference with official process.
His grandmother’s southwest Oklahoma City home was destroyed in the May 20 tornado, and then Thursday, he had surgery on his fractured foot.
Despite the setback, though, there’s still reason to believe Thompson could have a solid season.
Should Bell be named Oklahoma’s starter — as is widely expected — Thompson could find a niche in the Sooners’ offense like Bell did the past two seasons.
Stoops said at Big 12 Media Days that he “couldn’t shy away” from such an arrangement.
“If you put Kendal or Trevor back there to run it, they’re faster,” Stoops said. “So you’ve got more options there of what you’re able to do with them. Or if they happen to hit a crease, they’re not likely to be caught very soon. ... So there’s some of that to consider.”