On Thursday, OU Head Coach Bob Stoops named junior Paul Thompson as the Sooners' starting quarterback, but said that redshirt freshman Rhett Bomar had earned the right and will get snaps in the game — both early in the game and late.
"We felt, as a staff, that we are going to start Paul Thompson," said Coach Stoops after Thursday's practice. "We feel that he has earned it up to this point. What has really been positive from our point, as a coaching staff is how both have competed well together and have remained supportive for one another for the team. That matters to me first — what is good for the team.
"We do believe though that Rhett has played well enough and is close enough that we do intend to get him snaps early in games, as well as late in games. I am not going to be exact on that, as I can't be today. That will be determined how both of them play, but I do believe that he deserves opportunities to continue to grow and work in a system. How that will work its way out, we will see. I can't tell you that today."
"So that is how we are going to go into it — with Paul," said Stoops. "We are going to work Rhett in to some extent and allow them to see how they play, how they do and how productive they are for the team."
As always, Coach Stoops was very protective of his players not wanting to be critical of either quarterback so he refused to give a flat reason why Thompson graded out better than Bomar. However, Stoops did give a little insight from his perspective on why Thompson was named the starter.
"I just felt overall that there was a little more consistency there to some degree with Paul," said Coach Stoops. "It was still very close when you look at them overall throughout all the scrimmages from spring to now. We expect that Rhett will continue to grow and improve, and that he has great ability to continue to compete for the quarterback position."
As expected, Thompson was very poised meeting with the media and did his best to low-key his comments about his good fortune.
"I am just excited that I get a chance to get ready for a game next week during game week," said Thompson. "I am looking forward to getting out on the field and making some plays."
For Thompson, the road to becoming the starting quarterback at OU has been a long one. For much of his career, most fans and media alike didn't feel he should be playing quarterback, always clamoring for him to move to wide receiver or defensive back. Thompson had to sit back as Jason White was dominating college football and as Nate Hybl and White battled for this quarterback job making him a third fiddle.
Despite his best efforts today, Thompson did admit that he was happy and that it was a big emotional day for him.
"It is a happy day. There has definitely been a lot of he said-she said about me this year," said Thompson. "It feels kind of good right now to be clear where I am at. And everybody knows where I am at, so I can move forward and start producing for this team."
As you would expect, the classy Thompson complimented his challenger.
"Rhett is a great competitor and the competition is not going to stop here," said Thompson. "It is going to continue out throughout the season and that is going to make each and every one of us better."
While Thompson was named the starter, he wasn't given the position outright, as he will have to share a series or two or three or four with Bomar.
"We are going to do what we have to do to score some points and improve this team," said Thompson. "They talked to me about that and if that is their plan then I am all for it. I support their decisions."
For Bomar, the fact that he will get a chance to play in every game was the saving grace on what for him was a disappointing day.
"They said they were going to get me in there," Bomar said following practice. "I think I have earned that right. A couple of bad scrimmages screwed me over, but I think I have earned the right to get in there and play. They said they were going to get me in there, so we will see what happens."
Make no mistake about it, Bomar is very disappointed with the decision and he doesn't necessarily agree with it. But one thing is for sure, and that is the fact that Bomar doesn't feel this competition is over.
"I am a competitor and I want to play," said Bomar. "I didn't come here to sit the bench, and I don't plan on it. I need to get out there and do my thing when I get my opportunity. I had a good practice today. I have to be a man about this decision. I am not happy or anything like that, but I can't sit around and sulk and act like a little kid. I need to come out here and have a good practice, and I did that."
Coach Stoops fell short of calling the quarterback situation a two-quarterback system. The fact that the quarterbacks are not expected to alternate every series keeps it from being a two-quarterback system, but the fact that Bomar will play in every game keeps his spirits up.
"That is what they told me," said Bomar. "Hopefully I will get in there early before the game is out of hand, so I can get in there with the one's and show what I can do when I get my opportunity. I guess that is the plan as of right now, but I don't think there is a specific timeframe or anything like that. Whenever I get my chances I am going to have to go out there and make plays."
The guy that really made the call in the latest Sooner quarterback derby was offensive coordinator Chuck Long. Long believes that the coaching staff took into every single denominator in making this decision.
"That is why we wanted to work this over time. It took some patience on everybody's part and we thank everybody for being patient," said Long. "The whole time, we were thinking about the team first in this decision. We wanted to make sure it was done the right way. We felt that Paul earned the right to start based on his body of work from spring throughout the summer to now. We also felt that Rhett showed us some things the way he moved the football when he was in the scrimmages that warranted some playing time.
"Don't ask us right now when that is going to happen as we will go into each game with a plan and that plan may change from game to game. We can't pinpoint right now when he will be in. However, that is our goal — to get him in there every game. The last part of this is actual production in game and we feel very strongly about both of them producing. Starting with Paul, we feel good about what he did for us over the last eight or nine months and he will get the starting nod."
To come to this decision, Long used a formula that has been tested many times over.
"I have an excellent grading system that I took with me from my years in the National Football League," said Long. "It has been a proven, great system that I have got from some of the greats at that level and then put it in my own way. It tells me a lot as a coach where the quarterbacks are. It has been proven over time and I did rely on that.
"It is a grading scale system that goes from each scrimmage — that way you can have it on paper and you can show the guys and coaches exactly where they are, what they did, what they didn't do and where they go from here. Everything was laid out to them today and just showed them on paper that whole entire body of work. Paul earned the right to be the starting quarterback for us against TCU and we will go from there."
Long admits that it wasn't easy to tell Bomar that Thompson was going to be the starting QB.
"It is always tough. I don't take those conversations lightly," said Long. "You are talking about a young man who is at a very impressionable age. A young man who has worked extremely hard as Rhett has worked will play off for him at some point and time. It is hard to sit down and tell a young man that he is not going to be the starting quarterback when that is his dream and what he wants.
"It is still out there for him and it is still in front of him. Based on the situations that we have had in the past, it has been proven here that it is still out there for him. It is tough and it is not an easy conversation.
"I knew the kind of competitor that Rhett is and I knew that he would be upset about it, and he was. The whole key for Rhett will be to handle it the right way, bouncing back and to continue to work hard. This team needs him and will continue to need him."
Throughout each and every practice in the spring and in training camp each, every one of us formed an opinion on which quarterback did better in practice. It is safe to say that opinions varied each practice, so what was it that gave Thompson the edge in the eyes of the coaches?
"He proved and showed us a lot of steadiness throughout the whole process," said Long. "He was very steady and consistent, and that is what you look for in a quarterback — consistency first. We felt that he took care of the ball very well, but he has to improve in other areas, which I won't discuss now, but we have talked about.
"We are behind Paul and he is going to be given a chance to succeed. We want him to succeed, but he also knows that we are in the business of winning games here at Oklahoma. He has been here three years and he seen what has happened to the quarterback situation for three years. He is very mature about it and he knows the deal. That is what you like in Paul."
OU is not going to a true two-quarterback system, choosing instead to name a starter and a backup with a promise to the backup that he will play significant snaps in every game. Why not a two-quarterback system?
"That remains to be seen how much playing time and when the Rhett gets," said Long. "We felt that Paul had the better body of work and so he deserved a chance to start and a chance to settle in and succeed. At the same time, we felt that Rhett needed some time and deserved that as well. We will have a plan for that come game time and we will discuss that more next week. However, we plan on playing both quarterbacks. Let's see how this turns out from here, because I can't give you any definitive answers on how much time at this point."
"There is always that open door to play a two-quarterback system," Long continued. "I think it depends on production, the flow of the game etc. To say they are going to get exact equal time, I can't say that because then you are always looking at the clock worried about that."
In the first quarterback controversy between Jason White and Nate Hybl, the OU coaches decided against playing two quarterbacks. This time around in the battle between Thompson and Bomar, they have decided to play both, and the question is what is the difference in the two competitions?
"We always went into those first seasons wanting to play both quarterbacks if we could," said Long. "I always felt we left it open for the possibility of Jason White or Nate Hybl to get in and play. Sometimes it didn't work out that way. Our intentions were to try and play both. This time around we would like to definitely get Rhett into the game.
"It was that close of a race. Looking back on those other two races they did have some separation both years between the starter and the back up, but I can't tell you exactly the numbers or why. At that point in time, Nate and Jason had some separation between them. Nate was a little further ahead than Jason was than Paul is with Rhett."
Thompson will now get more reps in practice and more work with the one's, but it is not going to be like last year when Jason White got exclusive work with the first unit. Bomar will also get some work with the first unit further keeping him alive in the race.
In reality, we still have a quarterback race. Yes, we have our first stage winner, and it is Thompson. However, if Bomar does play in the first half against TCU and then in the third quarter as well, then his play is more than of a back up quarterback. If he happens to play better in his quality time than Thompson does in his, then he can still be promoted. However, Thompson has more of an opportunity at this point to seal the job and hold unto it for the rest of the year. That is the reward for earning the starting nod.
Last year, Louisville started senior Stefan LeFors, but played freshman Brian Brohm in every game but one in the first half and in a significant series or two it the second half. And all the Cardinals did was lead the nation in offense last year, so that system has proven to work and I anticipate something similar will be used for Thompson and Bomar.
The system honors Thompson as a starter, but keeps Bomar in the race and keeps his hopes alive of eventually be the starter — something the OU coaches want to keep alive. However, for now Thompson is their man.
And as is the nature with all football coaches, they hope that he is their man the rest of the season because that would mean that he is playing well and the Sooners are winning games.
Long says Thompson's steadiness was the difference
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