There’s a big decision looming in Norman, Okla.
The starting quarterback at the University of Oklahoma hasn’t been named heading into preseason camp, which begins on Aug. 1. Junior Blake Bell, sophomore Kendal Thompson and redshirt freshman Trevor Knight are battling to replace Landry Jones as the trigger man in the Sooners’ offense.
Yet the most critical part of the decision might not be which signal caller actually wins the job. It could be how the rest of the team responds to the decision. Innate in any quarterback competition is the potential for teammates to have a favorite contender. Innate in teammates having favorite contenders is the potential for a fractured locker room.
With a final decision just weeks away, OU’s senior leaders are preparing themselves to make sure there is no fractured locker room in the Sooners’ future. During Big 12 media days this week, fullback Trey Millard, center Gabe Ikard and cornerback Aaron Colvin talked about the quarterback battle. When asked about their top concern heading into the season, Millard and Ikard pointed to making sure the team is firmly behind the named starter and making sure that player enters the season with complete confidence.
“After that decision is made, there can’t be any [personal] ties or anything like that,” Millard said. “We have to roll with the man who was picked.”
There’s no reason to believe the potential for a fractured locker room is any bigger this season than any other year, but quarterback derbies can come with divided loyalties and natural biases.
“We can’t hold any grudges, we can’t have any favorites,” Colvin said. “Whoever it is, we have to be behind them, and we have to be ready to ride [with them], we [are chasing] something more important than all of our individual goals or individual things we want to happen.”
Once the entire team is fully committed to the named starter, another key will be staying behind him as the Sooners’ work their way through a taxing early schedule.
“During two-a-days, whatever quarterback is assigned the starting position, [we need to] build him up as much as possible,” Millard said.
Before they even enter the month of October, the Sooners will open three home tilts starting with Louisiana-Monroe followed by West Virginia and Tulsa then a tough road test at Notre Dame.
“Whoever gets named the starter better get ready quick,” Ikard said with a laugh. “We have to be ready Week One -- we aren’t playing any cupcake games.”
Bell seems to be the favorite heading into preseason camp, but during Big 12 media days coach Bob Stoops balked at any assumption that Bell will be the guy. Thompson and Knight are firmly in the mix, and their Sooners’ teammates have been good about publicly toeing the line and expressing confidence in all three quarterbacks.
“I have confidence in all three of those quarterbacks,” Ikard said. “I don’t want one of them not having the job to mess with those guys’ confidence. The coaches are going to handle [naming a starter], but once that happens, whoever it may be will be able to play at his maximum knowing he’s got the job. Once you’re a starter, you’ve been there, you’re more comfortable playing and you can play at the best of your ability.”