Oklahoma senior quarterback is now the man in the Sooner offense. With Jason White out for the year with his second ACL injury, Hybl is the senior citizen among the quarterbacks, with only freshmen backups Paul Thompson and Noah Allen behind him.
Hybl showed tremendous courage last season battling through injuries to lead the Sooners to an 11-2 record while throwing for 2,234 yards and 14 touchdowns against 13 interceptions.
The OU coaches believe that quarterbacks improve greatly from their first year to the second year. That appears to be the case with Hybl, who thus far has hit on 30 of 54 passes for 534 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. That is a quarterback efficiency rating of 156.96, which isn't shabby.
There is no question Hybl is now healthy and loving the Sooners new aggressiveness of throwing the football downfield. Hybl has become a tremendous leader for the Sooners with White out of the lineup and I recently talked with him about the upside of the offense heading into game four against South Florida.
JH: How is your offensive line progressing?
NH: "I am really impressed with how the offensive line has worked. For me it is just a matter of stepping up in the pocket and making the throw. The big guys are also doing a great job of run blocking, which was evident at the end of the Alabama game. As an offense, we still need to come along way in this area, but that is our goal and we will get there."
JH: Teams have been very aggressive against you defensively, but that has opened up on the long-ball hasn't it?
NH: "Yes, I have always liked to throw the football deep and that is something that we work on constantly. It is great to have more of a chance to do that this year and that is attributed to the offensive line giving me that time to make that pass, and the running backs stepping up and hitting linebackers and defensive ends in the mouth. Then, our wide receivers have worked hard to get open downfield and we have had some outstanding routes run by our wide receivers."
JH: Are you convinced that you are better in the redzone this season?
NH: "I feel that is one of the biggest improvements we have on our team. It's the new attitude that Coach Wilson brought in when he showed up on campus. He has brought a new aggressiveness of hitting people in the mouth. So, we have got into those big sets, but we can throw it out of there too. However, for the most part we are just going to line it up and run right at you and see if you can stop it."
JH: While you brag on your offensive line, the truth of the matter is that you have three guys who haven't played much as sophomores and a senior who hasn't played at all at one guard and a veteran at one guard. They don't always win all their battles, but you always remain confident with them. Is your plan to make sure those guys always have a positive attitude?
NH: "My job is to constantly keep them thinking positively and keeping their head in the game. In some spots we are young, but they really have some pretty good experience from last year. I still think they are developing as a group and individually, but I feel a big difference from last year. As I talked about before, their attitude is great. They are physically better and they have better feet this year. The firmness of the pocket up the middle has been the biggest difference for me."
JH: Vince Carter said that you always take the heat when something doesn't work offensively, even when it is an offensive lineman or wide receiver that makes the mistake. If that is really the case, why do you take the heat for your teammates?
NH: "I appreciate Vince for saying that. I really think our offense is a group deal. Against UTEP I didn't get sacked and that is a huge plus in how well I can play. When we don't take negative yardage we are a much better offense. When a sack does occur sometimes it may be a tackles fault or sometimes it may be my fault. However, I am always going to take responsibility if it is anywhere close to my fault. I was watching Donavan McNabb play the other night and he moves around the pocket so well that it makes it very hard to sack him. My movement, my vision, my footwork is key to avoiding sacks and I know that I am not the quickest guy in the world, but I can move better than people think, and I can help out my offensive linemen if I just keep my poise."
JH: Are you really completing more types of pass routes this year than last?
NH: "Yes, and I don't think you have seen our short passing game yet, or at least we haven't run it as well as we can. We didn't use it at all against UTEP, because we were pushing the ball downfield. That was dictated by the type of defense that UTEP was using against us. We felt like we could run by them and hit them over the top. I think you will continue to see a mixture, but definitely a lot more posts, fades, corner routes, deep outs and digs, stuff that is real fun for me to throw."
JH: Isn't it great that you are healthy this year and getting an opportunity to show everybody that you can throw the deep ball?
NH: "Yeah, it is fun to do a little play-action, a little seven step drop and throw stuff that I am more accustomed to doing. Not that I don't like the quick game, because I have spent about four years here trying to perfect that. It is fun to push the ball down the field and kind of jog down after a huge play. I love those kinds of drives, because they happen real fast."
One-on-One with Nate Hybl
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