We'll take a look at some of the Big 12's breakout stars this spring, but we'll move forward with a series looking at guys who will be stepping into bigger roles this season and what they have to provide. Some are going from being role players to starters. Some are going from starter to star. Some from stars to bona fide superstars.
Let's move on with Oklahoma.
Oklahoma's spring step forward: QB Blake Bell
Six teams in the Big 12 are breaking in a guy this spring who's never started a college game for his current team. I'd argue that Oklahoma's need for Bell to be great is more important than any other team in the league. For one, the natives are getting restless in Norman, tiring of 10-win seasons that feel pedestrian by Sooner standards, however unfair (or fair) you think that is. They want more, and in the Big 12, that's just not possible without truly excellent play from the quarterback spot.
Bell hasn't won this job yet -- youngsters Trevor Knight and Kendal Thompson will push him this spring -- but it's likely his job to lose and Oklahoma would be well-served if he'd win it. Bell has been in the thick of big-time football for the Sooners and the bright lights and big stage shouldn't wow him anymore. It's time for him to step forward and take control of the offense, though, shedding his single Belldozer package for the rest of the playbook. If Knight or Thompson wins this job, you have to assume more serious growing pains are in order, and that will mean losses. More than a few, and you can bet Oklahoma likely finds itself back with a 10-win season or worse. If Bell steps into his bigger role and fills it (adding in some excellence running the ball that Landry Jones' skill set could not provide), the Sooners will be in position to surprise with a big year and a great shot at a Big 12 title. If he doesn't, Oklahoma is going to have to settle for an average season or worse by their standards with a defense ill-suited for a big 2013 after losing seven starters from last year's unit.
Bell's the man who can pick up that slack, and Oklahoma's fortunes next season hinge on him.