NORMAN, Okla. — Running the scout team during a redshirt season, Trevor Knight caught the eye of Bob Stoops and the rest of the Sooners' coaches, developing a reputation for consistency, flexibility and making the occasional eye-popping play.
Stoops said that consistency was one thing that convinced him to name Knight as the starting quarterback for No. 16 Oklahoma, which will open its season Saturday against visiting Louisiana-Monroe.
Knight, a freshman, earned the nod over junior Blake Bell in what began as a three-man competition, then turned into a two-man race after an injury to sophomore Kendal Thompson on the first day of preseason practice. Stoops delayed naming a starter until last Thursday and didn't make his first extensive public comments about his decision until Monday.
Even as he talked about Knight, he made sure to praise Bell and how reiterate how close the competition was for the starting job.
"I'm not going to detail . what elevated (Knight) to play, because I don't know that it's all fair to publicly talk about just the two of them and what was what," Stoops said. "I think it's just fair to say that overall, through all these practices, there's just been a little more consistency in the different areas that we've been looking for. Blake isn't far off.
"It's obvious, maybe not to you. You sometimes think we're just playing the game of not knowing who. It's been a tight competition. So, you know, so we really didn't feel right determining it until, you know, when we did."
In 2012, Knight proved to be particularly effective in his scout-team duties, which consisted of simulating the offense the Sooners' defense would face each week. Scout-team players often can be overlooked, but Knight made it difficult not to notice, Stoops said.
"You see it early in the year and then mid-year, you are like, `This doesn't change, it's every day.' This guy is on the mark and throws a great ball and runs and takes off and does some things with it," Stoops said. "Then you are like, well ... we knew, all of us watching practice a year ago and we'd sometimes shake our head and say, `Wow, did you see what he just did?' He threw it into a little space and he was making plays like that in practice quite often."
Bell, meanwhile, became a fan favorite while running the "Belldozer" short-yardage package. The 6-foot-6, 263-pound Bell tied for the team lead with 11 total touchdowns, four of which came in a win over Texas. As a freshman, he tied the school record for rushing touchdowns by a freshman with 13 and was named as the Insight Bowl's offensive most valuable player.
Stoops said the Sooners still would use Bell in that package, but declined to say if they planned to use him in other ways as well.
"We're not going to just detail all of it for Louisiana-Monroe or anyone else," Stoops said. "I think it's fair to say we'll see as it goes, you know, what we do and don't do with the two of them. I think a lot of it is predicated by what happens once he's on the field."
Knight last played as a senior at Reagan High School in San Antonio in 2011, when he passed for 2,092 yards and 27 touchdowns with three interceptions, while rushing for 943 yards and 15 touchdowns. As a junior, he rushed for 1,050 yards and 22 touchdowns and passed for 1,629 yards and 11 touchdowns.
While Oklahoma's previous two starting quarterbacks, Sam Bradford and Landry Jones, were mostly pocket passers, the mobile Knight figures to use his legs to make plays at times. His teammates certainly have noticed in practice.
Knight's ability to throw on the run "helps a lot, especially if you've got a guy who can get out of the pocket on what's not a designed play, with a scramble, keeping plays alive," running back Trey Millard said. "A lot of times if you have a guy that can scramble like that and make deep throws, there's a lot of big plays to be made. That's an exciting part of his game."
Senior center Gabe Ikard said he is confident Knight will be successful in the glaring spotlight that is the life of a starting quarterback at Oklahoma.
"He's a player," senior center Gabe Ikard said. "He's going to get out there and use his ability. He's got a great arm and he's extremely fast. We're going to get to see and all-around quarterback. He makes good decisions. I know he hasn't played any games yet, but he's a rare talent. It's very exciting to have him behind us and we're very excited what he can do."