OU to look at running its quarterbacks

NORMAN, Okla. -- The Oklahoma offense will feature a different look this spring. Gone is four-year starting quarterback Landry Jones. In his place, the Sooners will feature their first quarterback competition in six years.

Regardless of who emerges out of the quarterback derby, the offense will change to fit the skill sets of Blake Bell, Trevor Knight and Kendal Thompson. How much change will be something offensive coordinator Josh Heupel determines this spring.

“Ultimately, whether we find the guy this spring or it happens in training camp, you're going to put in the schemes that he feels comfortable with,” Heupel said. “Your play calling is going to be in part based on what he has an opportunity to be successful in, as well.”

The good news for Heupel and the Sooners is that Bell, Knight and Thompson share one distinguishing skill -- they can run. In the past, Heupel has said he would prefer to stay away from calling designed runs for his quarterbacks.

But Thursday, as OU prepares to open spring ball this weekend, he confessed that running the quarterback will be something he will consider implementing into the offense.

"We will never give up anything as far as our quarterbacks having the ability to pass -- that's our primary focus first,” Heupel said. “We have great skill guys, and we want to make sure we're able to distribute the ball to those guys.

“But certainly the guys we have on campus are a little bit different than Landry with their ability to extend and make plays with their feet. How many times we'll have designed play calls for them I can't tell you right now, but certainly that's something we'll probably look at in the spring.”

Running the quarterback -- the “Belldozer” package notwithstanding -- has not been something the Sooners have utilized in the Bob Stoops era. When he quarterbacked the Sooners in 1999-00, Heupel was strictly a pocket passer. After two knee injuries, Jason White became the same.

Sam Bradford and Jones were recruited as prototypical quarterbacks, and both did their damage in the pocket.

Heupel, however, admitted a running quarterback could add stress to opposing defenses. The Sooners found that out firsthand facing Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, who set a Cotton Bowl record with 516 total yards.

“As much as anything, I think it changes how defenses play you in all downs, but certainly in third down,” Heupel said. “Defensive linemen, guys stay in their rush lanes, and they have to keep an eye on the quarterback, [and] his ability to extend plays and run downfield and make a 15-, 20-yard gain with his feet.

“That is certainly an added dimension and stress that will be a little bit different for defenses that we play."