MURRAY EVANS, Associated Press
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) – Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops might have a quarterback controversy on his hands.
Stoops said Monday that No. 14 Oklahoma will start junior Blake Bell on Saturday against Tulsa. He replaces Trevor Knight, who beat out Bell during the preseason.
Stoops said Knight suffered a bruised knee late in the first half of Oklahoma’s 16-7 win over West Virginia last Saturday and will miss up to two weeks. After suffering the injury, Knight continued to play in the third quarter before Bell finished the game for the Sooners.
While Oklahoma (2-0) has beaten Louisiana-Monroe and West Virginia to start the season, the Sooners’ passing game – a strength with Sam Bradford, then Landry Jones, playing quarterback the past six seasons – has looked shaky. Knight has completed just 43.8 percent of his passes for 205 yards, with four touchdowns and three interceptions, although he has rushed for 145 yards.
He threw two interceptions and lost a fumble against West Virginia, although Stoops conceded that the injury probably bothered Knight.
Bell, used mostly as a short-yardage rushing specialist the past two seasons, is 3-for-6 passing this season for 38 yards. He attempted only one pass in the fourth quarter against the Mountaineers, as the Sooners leaned on a strong rushing game – which rolled up 316 yards – to run out the clock.
Stoops said he thought Bell “looked comfortable” and “was doing everything like you’d want him to do.”
“When we made the switch, regardless of what reasonings, things just weren’t going as well as we felt they should have,” Stoops said. “So we wanted to give Blake an opportunity. With Trevor now being out a week or two . we’re starting Blake here this week.”
Stoops wouldn’t commit to giving the job back to Knight after he returns from injury. To complicate matters further, the coach said sophomore quarterback Kendal Thompson, who suffered a fractured foot on the first day of preseason practice, has been cleared to return to practice and will back up Bell against Tulsa (1-1).
If Thompson’s injury flares up, then fourth-stringer Cody Thomas would be Bell’s backup against the Golden Hurricane.
The situation has all the makings of an in-season quarterback derby, something the Sooners haven’t faced since 2005, when Paul Thompson started the opener – a shocking home loss to TCU – before giving way to Rhett Bomar, who started the rest of the season.
Stoops has said many times that the preseason competition was close between Knight, Bell and Thompson, and he waited until nine days before the season opener to choose Knight over Bell as the Sooners’ starter. Before Thompson’s injury, Stoops said Thompson “was right in the middle” of the competition with Bell and Knight.
Stoops said he expects it will take Thompson about a week “to get back in the groove. He was doing fantastic before he got hurt. He’s been in the room and at practice mentally. He should pick it up fairly quickly.”
So how do Oklahoma coaches decide between Knight, Bell and Thompson? Stoops wouldn’t give any indication.
“I’ve said it for a year,” Stoops said. “They’re all pretty much the same. They all can run. They all can throw. They’re all athletic. There’s not a lot of difference in their skill set as far as what they can do.”
Stoops said he doesn’t have a policy – as do some football coaches – about players potentially losing starting jobs due to injury.
“I’m sure, though my years, some have and some have not,” he said. “A lot of what determines that is if it’s a guy that’s played for three years and has already earned it and we know what he can do, when he gets injured, it’s pretty likely I’m going to put him back in there when he gets back. If a guy hasn’t been playing for two or three years, then maybe not. So, I don’t know.”
Running back Brennan Clay, who rushed for a career-high 170 yards on 22 carries against West Virginia, said that as far as the players are concerned, there has been no distraction caused by the discussion about who will play quarterback.
“We know whoever is going to be our starting quarterback is going to get the job done,” Clay said. “We have faith in him. We rely on him and he is going to lead our offense out there and we’re going to get the job done. I don’t think that’s a distraction for us. We put our trust in our quarterback.”
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.