NO controversy, only competition for No. 1 job

Saturday, August 11th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) _ Nate Hybl or Jason White?

The question of who will become Oklahoma's starting quarterback is the No. 1 topic of fall workouts for the defending national champs. Hybl and White came out of spring practice in a virtual dead heat for the job and each played well in the first scrimmage of two-a-days.

It figures to be a heated competition. What it won't become, the coaches say, is a controversy.

There would be controversy, coach Bob Stoops said, if Josh Heupel were returning this year and were benched in favor of someone else.

A controversy, offensive coordinator Mark Mangino said, would be if some players on the team aligned themselves with Hybl and others backed White.

``I think our team has great confidence in both these kids,'' Mangino said. ``They've watched 'em all spring, they've been around them and they believe these guys can play. So we're not headed in that direction. I see it as a very, very positive situation.''

Hybl and White have given the coaches plenty to consider.

Hybl, a junior, has the edge in experience. He played in five games last year as Heupel's backup, then worked with the first-team offense during spring practices this year. In scrimmages, he was 91 of 132 for 762 yards, with five touchdowns and three interceptions.

White, a third-year sophomore, saw action in just two games last year. During the spring, he was 71 of 100 for 773 yards and seven touchdowns, with two interceptions.

In the first fall scrimmage Wednesday night, the two split time with the first team although Hybl got the first crack with that unit and took more snaps with the first team. He completed 21 of 35 passes for 151 yards. White was 13 of 19 for 61 yards.

Physically, it's a wash. White is 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds. White is 6-2, 220.

``It's not a case where we have to find one of the guys who are capable of doing the job,'' Mangino said. ``They're both capable, and both have done a great job.''

White and Hybl are taking a wait-and-see approach. They're each satisfied with the progress they made during offeseason workouts, and appear willing to let whatever happens in the next few weeks decide the issue.

``The coaches say it's dead even, so I'm taking it as dead even into two-a-days,'' White said before two-a-days began. ``Hopefully, whoever's a better leader will come out on top.''

At media day recently, Hybl let out a sigh before answering yet another question about the quarterback race.

``We're just both working. That's the honest truth,'' he said. ``We both worked hard this summer. We'll see how it carries over in two-a-days. It's going to come down to decision making and moving the ball.''

The intangibles _ taking command in the huddle, staying cool under pressure, limiting the number of bad plays, reading defenses _ are likely to determine who starts the opener Aug. 25 against North Carolina.

And unless Mangino changes his philosophy, one or the other will clearly be No. 1 before that game. There are no plans to alternate Hybl and White by series or quarter.

Mangino said he won't hesitate to sit the starter down if he's struggling, but he doesn't sound too concerned about having to do that.

``I'm so high on both of these guys that I don't see them failing,'' he said. ``I really see them both being successful, and that's what makes this situation so unique _ we have two really quality quarterbacks.''