Sophomore Paul Thompson steps into the quarterback race this spring having served as the back-up to Nate Hybl last season. Thompson was asked to give up his redshirt last year when Jason White suffered his second ACL injury. Thompson played sparingly, but did practice with the varsity all season and was prepared to play each week. That gives him more experience running the Sooner offense than either Noah Allen or Brent Rawls, with only White with more.
Thompson is the most athletic of the other three quarterbacks and his ability to run is a tremendous asset in his effort to win the starting job. His maturity has won over his teammates and he has become a quality leader on the squad. I recently had a chance to sit down and talk for a few mintues with the Sooner quarterback, who Texas Head Coach Mack Brown wanted to play at wide receiver.
JH: Was your work during bowl preparations the beginning what you figure to be a tough competition for the starting quarterback next spring?
PT: "Definitely. Coach (Chuck) Long told us that it was kind of like the beginning of spring training. So, everybody was upbeat and ready to go, trying to impress the coaches and show them what we can do."
JH: With that being the case, was there a sense of urgency at those practices and is there one now during the offseason?
PT: "I certainly think there was and still is. Everybody is studying the playbook and looking at film. And back during the bowl practices, all of us were competing very hard. You had to take advantage of every opportunity you were given at practice and when presented with that opportunity you had to make something positive happen."
JH: Do you feel like your every movement is being watched by somebody within the OU coaches staff?
PT: "I certainly feel that as a quarterback at OU that your every movement is watched by somebody. I am not sure it is a coach all the time, but just trying to be a student feels as if all eyes are upon you. On the field I definitely feel the coaches are watching us pretty close. I just try to make sure my drops are right and there are a lot of things that go into making the right reads. I am just trying to everything that I can to make the play complete."
JH: What would you say that you bring to the table as a quarterback?
JH: "I think the fact I can run will allow us to run the option game a lot more than we have before. I will also be very good at the quarterback draw, quick passes and just getting out in open field and making something happen."
JH: During recruiting some schools didn't feel you threw the ball well enough and they wanted to play you at wide receiver. Do you feel you throw the ball well enough to play quarterback at OU?
PT: "Maybe my size and speed would make an ideal receiver. However, I don't think my size and speed is bad at quarterback either. I think I have come a long way proving to people that I can throw the football. If the coaches here felt that I couldn't throw well enough to compete for the job, then they would have already moved me to wide receiver. Instead, they seem to be making sure that I get every opportunity to win the starting quarterback job."
JH: Are you where you want to be physically?
PT: "No, I probably need to put on a couple of pounds. I want to weigh about 205 during the spring and then 215 by the time the season starts next year. I also want to work hard on my speed over the next couple of months. I currently run the 40 in the low 4.5s, but if I can get that down into the 4.4s then that would really be saying something."
JH: Your mobility is what may give you an edge in this quarterback race, don't you think?
PT: "Correct, my mobility was a big asset in high school, where I would fake a handoff and then just keep the ball around the end. The misdirection and boot plays can really help an offense."
JH: How does you mobility help you in the pocket?
PT: "It definitely helps me in the pocket because defensive linemen and linebackers always have to be aware of me scrambling and taking off running. It is tough trying to cover our receivers and trying to stop me from running at the same time. I think that is a benefit for me."
JH: Do you feel you have the edge in the quarterback race because you did get all that practice with the varsity last season."
PT: "It did help, but the race is wide open going into spring ball. Everybody will get a chance to prove what they can do and then the coaches will make a decision."
JH: It sound as if you are glad you gave up your redshirt and decided to play last year?
PT: "Yes, I sure am. I was kind of thinking that I might play this year, knowing if Jason or Nate (Hybl) got hurt they really didn't have another quarterback behind them, once Brent got hurt as well. The few games that I did get in did help me a lot and I feel as I get ready to compete in the spring."
JH: What about your competition?
PT: "They are all good quarterbacks. Brent has a real strong arm and he is able to zip the ball just about into any space. I also feel he makes a lot of great reads on a lot of plays. Noah does a great job of throwing the ball and I think he makes great reads as well, so I am looking forward to the challenge."
JH: The other quarterbacks say that you have a great arm as well, so what is the deal? Do all of you throw the ball well?
PT: "Yes, we are all pretty good and all of us can throw it pretty well."
JH: Do you study Nate and Josh a lot on film?
PT: "I probably study Nate a lot more, just because I was playing with him. If I had more of an opportunity I would have love to watch Josh (Heupel). It was a great pleasure to watch Nate operate our offense and nothing has really changed since Jason was in there. I just watch Nate as much for his leadership abilities as for his on the field ability. He had a great year. You can't go 11-2 and win the Rose Bowl and play badly.
Thompson ready for the challenge
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