NORMAN — Bob Stoops was impressed by Trevor Knight the first time he saw him playing scout team quarterback.
But by the middle of last season, he was more than impressed. He was convinced he had a big-time ballplayer on his hands.
“You see it early in the year,” Stoops said, “and then mid-year, you're like, ‘This doesn't change. It's every day.'”
The arm and the accuracy. The legs and the elusiveness. All of it was on display every time Knight took to the practice field as a true freshman.
Now, it will be on display for all the world to see.
Knight got the nod over Blake Bell as Oklahoma's starting quarterback last week, and while the move shocked many around college football, those who have seen Knight play since he arrived on campus aren't surprised in the least.
That starts with the Sooners' head honcho.
“All of us watching practice a year ago would sometimes shake our heads — ‘Wow, did you see that, what he just did?'” Stoops said during his weekly lunchtime press conference Monday.
And here's what's most interesting in what Stoops had to say about Knight — his throwing abilities stood out. Stoops mentioned them first, then came back to them time and again.
“This guy is on the mark,” Stoops said he remembered thinking. “He throws a great ball.”
Don't misunderstand, Knight's running ability impressed him, too — “He runs, takes off, does some things with it,” Stoops also remembered thinking — but it sure sounded as though it was Knight's arm that really amazed.
He threw it into tight spaces. He hit receivers while on the run.
Interesting, isn't it?
The free world assumes Knight won the starting job over Bell because of what he can do with his feet. He's quicker. He's more elusive. He's able to extend plays in a way Bell isn't.
And teammates keep saying things that make you believe that more and more.
“I feel like if you put him in Texas A&M's offense ... and you take Manziel out, it will be the exact same,” Sooner linebacker Corey Nelson said.
All that Johnny Manziel did last season was break just about every freshman record in the SEC, win the Heisman Trophy, then put an exclamation mark on his season by shredding the Sooner defense in the Cotton Bowl.
“(Knight's) skills are equivalent to Manziel's,” Nelson said. “He's able to run — he's so mobile — and he can throw on the run.
But you don't have to read too far between the lines to realize that Stoops and his coaching staff believed from the beginning that Knight had a big-time arm, too.
Stoops admitted that the great throws they saw him make last season with the scout team were on predetermined plays. The coaches put one of the opponent's plays on a card, and the quarterback makes a certain drop, and the receivers run a certain route, and to give the defense a fair look at what they'll see that next Saturday, there's very little reading of the defense or adjusting of the play.
“It's pretty easy when there's a card — ‘This is where I'm going' — as opposed to there's no card, ‘I've got to read it out,'” Stoops said.
That means Stoops took Knight's stellar scout team play with a grain of salt. Sure, he could run predetermined plays, but what about reading the defense and going through his progressions and making the right decisions?
Stoops knew that would be take some adjustment once Knight started running the Sooners' offense.
And still, the coach couldn't help himself from being amazed at what the quarterback was doing.
“I remember some other guys saying the same thing,” Stoops said. “‘Wow, you keep being excited about the throws he's making.'”
Stoops had no way of knowing then that Knight would become his starter now, but seeing the way Knight played on the scout team week after week last season, it didn't take him long before he knew one thing for certain.
Knight is a serious ballplayer.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at (405) 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.