NORMAN, Okla. -- Weeks ago, the viewpoint of Oklahoma’s varsity defense toward scout-team quarterback Trevor Knight finally reached its tipping point.
On a rollout, Knight planted suddenly, jumped inexplicably and completed a bomb downfield over the defense for a touchdown. Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops slammed his paper script down. Bobby Jack Wright howled at his defensive ends. And a hushed Knight jogged back to the huddle, poised to torch the OU defense again on the next play.
“I was like, ‘This kid is unreal. Why is he doing this to us?’ ” said end R.J. Washington. “I’m not mad at him -- we need the look. But at the same, you’re like, ‘Trevor, you throw another pass like that, I’m going to hit you in the back of your head.’ ”
Much to the dismay of the OU defense, Knight has thrown many passes like that all season, earning the redshirting freshman scout team co-offensive player of the year honors at last week’s team banquet.
“Trevor has a chance to bring some noise,” said the Sooners’ ace cornerback, Aaron Colvin. “When we go against him in the scout team, he makes some throws that are kind of unreal.
“I’m very curious to see what he does because I think he has a bright future.”
Knight, who signed with OU out of San Antonio Reagan High School, was ESPN.com’s 22nd best quarterback recruit in the 2012 class. As a senior, he threw for more than 2,000 yards and ran for another 1,000, totaling 42 touchdowns.
Even though the 6-foot-1, 200-pound Knight was still in high school just a few months ago, he quarterbacks with a sense of poise, confidence and leadership reserved for older players.
Colvin says Knight “plays like he’s been playing college football for awhile.”
Washington says Knight “does things in practice that freshmen shouldn’t be doing.”
But what has impressed free safety Tony Jefferson most is how seldom Knight errs against the first-team defense.
“He rarely throws picks,” Jefferson said. “All his passes in scout team are on point. He makes good decisions. His deep ball is pretty amazing. He can run.”
“I will leave it up to him to show you.”
For the first time since Sam Bradford beat out Keith Nichol and Joey Halzle in 2007, the Sooners will actually have a quarterback competition this spring.
Bell remains the overwhelming favorite to win the job. Out of the “Belldozer” package, Bell has already rushed for 24 touchdowns through two seasons. Earlier this fall, he beat out Drew Allen for the No. 2 job behind Jones.
Because of his athleticism and tremendous work ethic, sophomore-to-be Kendal Thompson could be a factor in the quarterback derby. But insiders around the program say that Knight is the one most capable of toppling Bell.
“Talking to other players around the program, the defensive guys, they all believe he’s going to be a really good player,” said offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Josh Heupel. “Sometimes the players know who the best players are before coaches get a chance to get their hands on them.”
Until this season ends, Knight will continue running the scout team, this time impersonating Johnny Manziel. In many ways, the OU defense sees similarities in style between Knight and the Texas A&M Heisman winner. Ironically, Knight could be backing up Manziel right now. Knight originally committed to Texas A&M before switching to the Sooners.
“They play a lot of the same way,” Washington said. “Manziel maybe likes to run a little bit more than Trevor, but it’s pretty close.”
This time last year, Manziel too was quarterbacking the Aggies scout-team offense as Texas A&M prepared for its bowl game. But then this fall, Manziel bested the presumed heir-apparent to win the starting job.
Who knows if Knight will be able to do the same. But after a season of being dazzled and duped in closed practices, the OU defenders all agree: they’re ready for a new scout-team quarterback.
“Every segment of practice Trevor will do something to make us look bad,” Washington said.
“I’m telling you, Trevor is going to be good. Trevor is going to be really good.”