DALLAS (AP) — Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops was quick to point out there still is no final decision on who will be the starting quarterback for the Sooners this season.
It has been quite a while since that has even been a question for Stoops.
Texas coach Mack Brown, meanwhile, finally got a break at Big 12 football media days from having to answer who will be his starter. The Longhorns have junior David Ash, whose 18 starts are the most among current league quarterbacks.
“David has grown up. He’s learned a lot,” Brown said Tuesday. “He is much more confident than at any time.”
Landry Jones is gone after starting 50 games for Oklahoma the past four seasons, during which the successor to Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford won 39 games and became the Big 12′s career passing leader (16,646 yards).
While many people assume that the Oklahoma starter will be Blake Bell, the junior who has run for 24 career touchdowns in primarily short-yardage situations, Stoops said sophomore Kendal Thompson and redshirt freshman Trevor Knight are also competing for the job.
Stoops also said the 6-foot-6, 263-pound quarterback known for “Belldozer” packages can throw the ball too.
“We have a history in my going on 15 years of having guys in quarterbacks that are really excellent throwers, and Blake fits that mold,” said Stoops, whose Sooners last season won a share of their eighth Big 12 title.
After Colt McCoy led Texas to the BCS national championship game in 2009, Garrett Gilbert struggled the following season when the Longhorns had their only losing season under Brown. So in 2011 the question was whether Gilbert would be able to keep his job over then-freshmen Ash or Case McCoy, the two the coach was choosing between a year ago.
In a game he wasn’t even sure he would start, Ash capped his sophomore season last December by helping lead the Longhorns to a 31-27 comeback victory over Oregon State in the Alamo Bowl. Ash threw for 188 yards and two touchdowns after halftime, including a 36-yard TD pass with less than 2 1/2 minutes left after Texas converted fourth-and-1.
“I thought his comeback in the Alamo Bowl really, really helped him with our team, with his confidence,” Brown said. “And I think it helps him nationally, and I think he’ll have a big year.”
With co-offensive coordinator and former quarterback Major Applewhite now coaching quarterbacks, and Ash described by Brown as “in command” after throwing for 2,699 yards with 19 touchdowns and eight interceptions last season, the Longhorns are planning to go with a faster tempo on offense.
Brown believes that change will be more beneficial to the defense, which will now see each week in practice what it will face in most Big 12 games.
West Virginia is going into its second Big 12 season without Geno Smith, who went to the NFL as the leading passer in Mountaineers history.
“Geno is going to be a great pro. We don’t try to compare him to anybody on our staff or any of that, but we’re in the same situation as, I think, seven or eight other Big 12 schools right now,” coach Dana Holgorsen said. “The quarterback play in the Big 12 last year was phenomenal, and it’s always going to be phenomenal. It’s just going to be with newer people.”
After going to three consecutive bowl games for the first time in school history, Baylor will be breaking in a new starter after the graduation of Nick Florence, who led the Big 12 in total offense last season after Robert Griffin III won the Heisman for the Bears the previous year. Playing behind those two, junior Bryce Petty has played only 11 games and completed 10 of 14 passes.
Regardless of what happens, there will be golden moments for the Bears in their final season at Floyd Casey Stadium. They will wear shiny gold helmets for many games this season, among many different uniform combinations.
“To me, that’s what it’s all about. You got style, you got attitude, you got effort. You have an image,” coach Art Briles said. “And our image is we’re going to play fast, we’re going to be fearless, and we’re not going to worry about what other people think because we know who we are and we know what we’re going to do. So the new uniforms and all that stuff, it’s tied in with presenting the image that we are at Baylor, and that’s being really good football players, really good students, at a really good university.”
Iowa State does return a starting quarterback, though sophomore Sam Richardson didn’t take over until the final three games last season, when he threw eight touchdowns with only one interception.
What the Cyclones will really miss are Jake Knott and A.J. Klein, the standout linebackers who had been such a force in the Big 12.
“You don’t replace those guys. You don’t replace them from a leadership position. You don’t replace them from what they’ve meant to our era of Iowa State football,” coach Paul Rhoads said.