Oklahoma's Quarterback Competition Begins In Private

Wednesday, March 7th 2007, 12:34 pm
By: News On 6

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) _ Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops opened spring practice on Wednesday, looking for a tough, smart starting quarterback who can make plays with his arm.

The Sooners, who dismissed starter Rhett Bomar for a violation of NCAA rules last fall, find themselves without an experienced quarterback after Paul Thompson completed his eligibility in Oklahoma's overtime loss to Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl.

``The quarterback will be the center of attention for sure,'' Stoops said. ``Our guys are going to be on the field a long time, getting those guys as many snaps and repetitions as they can. They're a great group of guys.''

The competition between junior Joey Halzle, redshirt freshman Sam Bradford and recruit Keith Nichol will be largely held in private. Stoops closed the Sooners' spring practices to the public and to the media, except for a pair of scrimmages and the spring game.

``I just feel sometimes there's too much information out there when we're trying to develop the team, whether it be injuries, whether it be total focus on the quarterbacks, those kind of things,'' Stoops said. ``I just don't feel it's necessary. It isn't like people can't get information.''

The university will instead control the release of practice reports through its sports information department. In part, that will keep a watchful eye off the quarterbacks.

``I don't want them pressing like every single play and every single day is do or die. It can't be that way,'' Stoops said.

In the past, though, Stoops hasn't chosen a new starter until the end of fall practice, making it unlikely that one will emerge behind closed doors.

``You'd love to go out there in one day and know who the guy is and give him all the snaps, but is that realistically going to happen? No. These guys all need work,'' Stoops said.

``It's not going to be decided here by spring break,'' Stoops added. ``Let's let it develop and run its course.''

Stoops identified the qualities he was hoping to find in Halzle, Bradford and Nichol and said he thought all three had made ``significant strength gains'' during winter workouts. He was also pleased with how Halzle and Bradford gained confidence through practices leading up to the Fiesta Bowl. Nichol enrolled early to join the competition.

The quarterbacks will go through spring without leading receiver Malcolm Kelly, who is out after offseason surgery following a sophomore season in which he caught 62 passes for 993 yards and 10 scores. Safety Darien Williams and offensive lineman Brandon Walker will also miss the spring sessions. Tight end Jermaine Gresham and defensive end Alonzo Dotson will miss the first five practices, but return after spring break on March 26.

Still, Stoops believes the Sooners are well-equipped to bring in a new quarterback because of the amount of starters who'll return on offense _ including the top four receivers, two tight ends and four of five starting linemen. At running back, the Sooners lose Adrian Peterson but bring back Allen Patrick, who ran for 761 yards as a backup.

``With all the experience back on the offensive line, all the experience back at running back, tight end and receiver, our offense will be much stronger around that position to help that position and develop that position,'' Stoops said. ``Now, we've just got to get out there and start to do it.''