Can Oklahoma Sooners Transition to Offense with a Running Quarterback?
The Oklahoma Sooners have annually put together one of the most prolific offenses in the Big 12 and all of college football with a high-powered passing attack. Sam Bradford won a Heisman Trophy on the strength of his arm and Landry Jones continued that tradition for the last several seasons. With Jones’ graduation, Oklahoma will turn to a new quarterback, but they will do it with a new offensive philosophy in 2013.
This spring, three quarterbacks will make a push for the starting quarterback job next fall. Junior Blake Bell, sophomore Kendal Thompson and redshirt freshman Trevor Knight will all get looks during spring practice. Bell has the most experience of the group, getting on the field in the “Belldozer” package where he primarily ran the football, but that won’t get him the job automatically. Each brings something a little different, but the one thing they have in common is their ability to run.
The prototypical Oklahoma quarterback in recent memory has been the traditional pocket passer that has had little to no ability to run the ball as part of the offense. That will change next season as head coach Bob Stoops and offensive coordinator Josh Heupel are preparing the offense to embrace the athletic talents of their trio of quarterback hopefuls.
But will the rest of the roster be able to keep up? Logically, the rest of the team has been recruited to fit the offensive system that the Sooners have been so successful with. The linemen, receivers and running backs have been recruited for their ability to work in a pass-heavy offense. Can they adapt to a running-quarterback offense?
Looking at the stats for Oklahoma’s “Belldozer” package last season, the results were pretty good. Bell rushed for 201 yards in 2012, averaging 3.4 yards per carry and scoring 11 touchdowns. Many of Bell’s carries came near the goal line, which limits how many yards Bell could gain and accounts for his high number of touchdowns. Facing defenses expecting a run also limited some its effectiveness.
Whoever wins the job will need to have a bit more balance than the Belldozer offense had last season. In 2012, Bell attempted just 16 passes, so he’ll have to show a better ability to throw in spring if he wants to become the primary starter next fall.
How will all the pieces fit together? Will Oklahoma be able to sustain a running-quarterback offensive system after years of being a pass-oriented system? Time will tell, but it’s a big question that Stoops and Heupel will have to answer.