The backup quarterback is always the most popular guy on the team.
It's a common saying amongst football fans, heck we're living through the most
overrated celebrated backup quarterback possibly in football history. It's certainly a statement that certainly applies for this Oklahoma football team. Blake Bell and the 'Bell-dozer' package took Sooner Nation by storm last year and created somewhat of a cult hero overnight. And yet, if starter Landry Jones were to go down at some point early in the 2012 season most believe that Drew Allen, not Bell, would be the first man off the bench at quarterback. Most OU fans would probably tell you that's not what they necessarily want, nothing personal against Allen mind you, it's just the allure of what Blake Bell could be they find of enticing. However
It's an interesting scenario for this OU football team as they resume spring practices this week. Backup quarterback isn't generally something most fans want to be talking about during spring practices as it typically means the team has a potential problem with their starter. This is not the case with Oklahoma, but that hasn't stopped the talk surrounding both Allen and Bell.
Bob Stoops and Josh Heupel (primarily) have the difficult task of pitting the two against each other in order to determine who would be best fit to take over should something happen to Jones. After Sam Bradford's opening game entry OU fans everywhere hope Stoops won't ever make the same mistake again by not having his backup quarterback properly prepared.
So it's with that the Sooners resume practice and the while the information coming out of practices has been minuscule at best, there has been some talk regarding the backup QB battle. The talk has been that Bell has still yet to separate himself from Allen. He is still developing as a passer and the belief right now is that Allen just continues to be more accurate with the football. It's not helping that Landry has reportedly taken more snaps than he typically would in an effort to work on/further develop his chemistry with his receivers.
It's not necessarily something to get alarmed about, but you for those out there who had hoped Bell would significantly improve as a passer between the bowl game and spring practices you may be disappointed. At this point, I just don't believe the coaches trust Bell as a passer enough to put the offense in his hands. And this is a battle that has to be fought this spring because we all know Stoops isn't playing this out once the season starts. He rarely ever plays his backup quarterback in games to begin with so the chances of playing two to determine whose ahead of who is absolutely nonexistent.
So if things continue the way they are currently, it leads to the following inevitable question. If Allen is the true backup, what is Bell's role on this team in 2012 and going forward?
Obviously we're going to learn a lot about this as the season plays out, but for now why not speculate on what could happen. If Allen is the primary backup and Bell is limited to his specific set of plays it's a big loss for Bell's development as far as I'm concerned. There is an obvious limited number of snaps one can get in practice and we know Landry's getting his and clearly Allen would need is in the event Landry went down. So it just limits what they can do with Bell and his development this year, heading into 2013 without Landry, is monumental with respect to his future within this offense.
For me, one of the biggest goals for Heupel this year would be to develop Bell as a passer in live game situations. It's not as if this isn't being done in practices (we know that it is), but no matter how hard you try you simply cannot replicate the speed of a live game in practice. Accomplishing this will clearly not be easy as Heupel will have to do so without disrupting the offense (and Jones as well of course) while also utilizing Bell's substantial skills running the ball. It's a balancing act to be sure and one that hopefully a second year play caller is better equipped for as compared to last year.
This becomes crucial not really for this season, but more so for next season. If Stoops and Heupel do what they've done in the past (only replace Landry once it's time for the victory formation) then you're heading into 2013 with a senior but inexperienced Allen, a still raw and untested Bell, a presumably yet to ever see the field Kendal Thompson, and a very likely to be redshirt (albeit talented) Trevor Knight. Not a pretty picture in my own humble opinion and one that can somewhat easily be avoided if you lay the ground work now. You'd like to think the coaches can see this bigger picture when approaching things, but as we're all too familiar with at times it would appear they've failed to do so.
How they choose to manage this situation will go a long way towards this program's future success as far as I'm concerned. So as much as OU fans love the Bell-dozer, if that's the extent of what we see Blake Bell used for this year, even if it's as (or even more) successful than last year, I think you have to consider that a potentially huge mistake by this coaching staff.
Who would have thought that will all the critics of Landry Jones out there that the guys behind him could draw so much more attention this season. It's a crazy, mixed up world we live in kids.