Thompson focused on team despite tight QB race goes one-on-one with Oklahoma junior quarterback Paul Thompson about his progress, his battle to start at QB, and who's looked good this summer. (Photo by Jerry Laizure)

When practice gets underway in two weeks, all eyes will be on the three quarterbacks vying for the starting job. Upperclassman Paul Thompson has been waiting three years to be the man under center for the Sooners, but he ha to hold off Rhett Bomar and Tommy Grady — two quarterbacks who came to the Sooners more highly regarded than Thompson.

Last week, had a chance to catch up with Thompson between passes to talk about his shot at becoming Oklahoma's starting quarterback.

JH: Have you picked it up a notch this summer knowing the shot that you have in front of you?

PT: "I am always doing my best to give my best. One of my main goals right now is not only to help myself, but to help these young guys step it up. I am trying to get them accustomed to what Big 12 football is like and get them to the type of conditioning they will need to play in the Big 12 Conference. I am trying to help myself, but I am trying to bring these other guys along as well."

JH: That is the role of the quarterback isn't it? You just can't worry about yourself on a football team can you?

PT: "You know that football is a team sport and you just can't worry about yourself. I am going to try to help everybody else get better, and eventually that is going to help this team get better."

JH: Is this is a good group of young players?

PT: "Yeah, definitely, and what impresses me is that they are all up here this summer. I don't know if we have ever had that before. All the freshmen were here the whole summer working out and going to class, which is a big step in becoming more mature and better players."

JH: The summer workouts are voluntary, but as a college athlete do you just know you have to be at those workouts for you to be able to compete?

PT: "Definitely, especially when you are competing in the Big 12. If you look around the Big 12 the country, everybody has their whole team working out. So just to stay with everybody, at least, and let alone get ahead, we have to get up here and work out with the team. We have to work on our offense and our defense or whatever your specialty is. You definitely have to do it to stay ahead and to keep up with the rest of the leagues."

JH: Jason White told me that even he was curious which quarterback was going to step up and lead seven-on-seven drills and lead the team in the summer. He said the summer was the key time of the year for a quarterback. Do you agree with that?

PT: "Yeah, definitely because the coaches are not here right now. The quarterbacks have to be the coaches in the summer, and I think that is what I have done this summer as far as when to get together with the centers and organizing seven-on-seven drills. It is a big step within the quarterbacks to determine who is going to be the leader. I have felt that I have done that this summer."

JH: Aren't you doing seven-on-seven's in the evening, which I think is very smart on your part?

PT: "That has a lot to do with my workout time,because I am working out at 5:45 a.m.. I don't know if I can get anybody here earlier than that, and then we have lifting times throughout the rest of the day until 5:00 p.m when the freshmen are finishing up. We get together at around 5:30 when most of us are rested and we get in there and have a quality seven-on-seven."

JH: Is it just you or are Rhett and Tommy helping you set up the seven-on-seven drills?

PT: "They are all helping, but I have had a little bit more experience with it. I can kind of facilitate it and organize it a little bit better. The other guys are picking it up real well."

JH: Jason said he had some real interesting conversations with guys early in the morning trying to get them to workouts. Do you have any good stories that you can tell?

PT: "I have told them before that Schmidty is going to be out there taking roll. That wasn't exactly true, but just the thought that he might be there got everybody there. We have had a real good turnout and everybody has been getting into it. Our upperclassmen are setting a great example by getting to the seven-on-seven on time and making it through the workouts."

JH: Who has looked good to you?

PT: "Everybody has looked good, and the freshmen have come along real well. All the guys have done a great job, like they have ever since I have been here. Everybody is doing their part and they are all improving."

JH: You have the two-a-day practices in August to try to win the job. Bob Stoops says the job is still wide open, but you have always gone into camp trying to win the quarterback job. Is this year really any different?

PT: "I have never gone into practice thinking that I am not going to be the starter. That is not going to help this team if the starter were to go down I had to be ready to play. To be ready to play, I had to work as if I was gong to be starter. Last year, if Jason went down, I was ready to go in because I didn't want the team to be down because I wasn't ready to play. I always planned on being the starter, and I don't plan on anything being different this year. I am going to try as hard as I can, watch extra film and do the things that I have grown to do. That is going to help me this year."

JH: What do you think you have to do to win the job? Do you think you have to do anything extra in two a-days or just do what Paul Thompson always does?

PT: "No, they know what I can do and they know what I have, so now I just have to go into there and prove it to them."

JH: You and Rhett are very mobile for quarterbacks, and Tommy moves around pretty well to, so how much is that going to enhance the offense?

PT: "It is definitely a little niche in the offense that we are going to have this year because defenses can't target one person when you have mobile quarterbacks in the backfield. I think that makes it tough on defensive coordinators."

JH: How much of a factor is the QB run game going to be in the offense next year?

PT: "It is going to be a big factor, especially when you have quarterbacks who can throw as well. It just adds a little bit more to our offense and something else for our opponents to worry about."

JH: I can see it now with you on the corner running the speed option and Adrian Peterson is your trailing running back. That is a lot of pressure on the corner for the defenses to try to contain, don't you agree?

PT: "Definitely, that play is going to be the big part of our offense this year. If the quarterbacks read the play right then that play could be great for us."

JH: I know you don't read the preseason magazines, but they are all saying that the Sooners' offense can't be good because it has lost Jason White, Mark Clayton, Brandon Jones and Jammal Brown, to just name a few. What do you think about statements like that?

PT: "Those are great athletes, but there are other guys who are going to step up and be just as productive that the general public hasn't seen yet. I can't take nothing away from those players before us, but we have great players waiting to replace them who are as good, if not better, than the other teams in the Big 12 Conference. They will be ready to go when the season starts."

JH: I know you lose Jammal, but this may be the most athletic O-line since you have been here.

PT: "Right, and we have some young guys coming in as well. From what I have seen they look real athletic, and we have a lot of big guys to. I know people know that we are losing Jammal, Vince and Wes, but we still have a lot of players who have played in the O-line, so I still think we are going to be very good."

JH: How much confidence does an offensive team have when you know that you have No. 28 back there, a quality back-up in Kejuan Jones and the best fullback in the country in J.D. Runnels?

PT: "It is a definite confidence booster when you are playing in the backfield with running backs with experience, and a guy like Adrian back there. That always puts a lot of pressure on the defense and is only going to help us."

JH: Jerry Schmidt's summer program is considered one of the best in the country, but you have gone through it now for three years. How would you describe it?

PT: "Intense is the word I would use. We just get after it. There are no off-days or days to relax. We are going after it 110 percent every day, and that is what you have to do to compete in the Big 12."

JH: Paul your best asset is sure your athletic ability, but I am thinking more along the lines of your leadership, your poise and your personality. You always have a great smile on your face and you are always helping your teammates with something. Where do these qualities come from? You act as if you are 30 years-old, but still only a junior in college?

PT: "That comes from my family and my upbringing. My whole dad's side of the family is military. People always talk to me about this, and sometimes I have to think about this question because I don't notice myself doing anything different. I do get that a lot and I think it is just from my upbringing and my family instilling certain values in me."

JH: Because you are athletic everybody is always suggesting that you should or could play wide receiver or running back or something. Do you ever just want to scream that you are a quarterback and that is where you want to play?

PT: "Yeah, definitely. It seems like I get punished sometimes for being athletic. Like I have said before, I could play a couple other positions and be real good at it and quite possibly one of the best in the Big 12 at other positions. But right now I am focusing on quarterback and I think I am going to be one of the best quarterbacks in the Big 12 and in the country."

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