BCS rules require that teams bring their starting quarterbacks to the offensive news conferences.
But those looking for Monday’s session for the Oklahoma players to reveal who’s getting the nod in Thursday’s Allstate Sugar Bowl game against Alabama would have been disappointed.
Both junior Blake Bell and redshirt freshman Trevor Knight were there. So, as promised, it appears that this will be a late, if not game-time decision.
“We’ve been this way throughout the entire year,” Sooners co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said. “Our kids continue to push each other.
“Typically, who practices the best tells you who is going to play the best. So when we get to toward the end of the week, that’s when we know who our guy will be.”
Or it could be both.
Bell’s principal playing time before this season was a short-yardage situational replacement for Landry Jones. Last year, Bell, nicknamed the “The Belldozer” because of his imposing 6-foot-6, 263-pound presence, scored 11 touchdowns, four of them in a 63-21 rout of Texas.
“You might see us doing something like that,” Bell said with a smile. “It’s all up to the coaches.
“They’ve got a game plan for us. Our challenge is to be ready to play and execute it.”
For Oklahoma to be in this kind of situation is unusual in that in the Bob Stoops era, the Sooners have had two Heisman-winning quarterbacks in Josh White and Sam Bradford; a runner-up in Heupel; and a four-year starter in Jones, the Big 12’s career passing and total offense leader who is now a rookie with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Knight, recruited to help the Sooners convert to the read option like most of the rest of the Big 12, won the starting job in the preseason but suffered a shoulder injury in the second game and played only sporadically over the next eight games before replacing Bell, who is more of a pocket passer, after he was injured in the Iowa State game.
In the regular-season finale against Oklahoma State, Knight reinjured his shoulder in the first half, and after replacement Kendal Thompson proved ineffective, Bell came on to take the Sooners on a last-minute drive, connecting with Jalen Saunders with 19 seconds to give Oklahoma and the victory a trip to the Sugar Bowl.
But it did not earn Bell his job back.
In fact, there are indications that this might be Bell’s final game with the Sooners and that he will take advantage of the transfer rule for graduates to play elsewhere next season without having to sit out a year.
“We’ll worry about that when we come to that point,” Bell said. “Right now, I’m just worried about beating Alabama.”
And giving the Crimson Tide two quarterbacks with contrasting styles is part of the reason for not revealing the starter.
“Anytime you prepare for an offense, you’ve got to be ready for the backup,” Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart said Monday. “There are some similarities between their two guys but also some differences.
“We’ve had some extra time between games, so we can prepare for both. Whereas in a week, it’s a lot tougher.”
And despite the competition between Bell and Knight, the two have remained friends.
In fact, they are road trip roommates, including this week in New Orleans.
“Part of the reason you become a quarterback is being the face of the team, so starting matters a lot,” Knight said. “Both of us want to be that guy, and so we’ve embraced the opportunity to compete.
“We’ve both shown we can make plays and win ballgames. That’s what’s making this fun.”
Bell added that part of the fun is to keep Alabama — and the prying public — in the dark.
“It’s just a game we all love to play,” the son of one former NFL player (Mark Bell) and the nephew of another (Mike Bell) said.
“Keeping the other team guessing is a big part of that.”
“You come to a school like Oklahoma to be a part of a great program and make it to bowl games like this and play great teams like Alabama. How can you not have fun when you get to do that?”