WACO, TX - NOVEMBER 19: Landry Jones #12 of the Oklahoma Sooners during play against the Baylor Bears at Floyd Casey Stadium on November 19, 2011 in Waco, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
There are few players in recent memory who have drawn more criticism from OU fans than quarterback Landry Jones. Some of it is probably fair, while more of it probably isn't. While being the starting quarterback may be the dream come true for a vast majority of Sooner Nation, Jones doesn't quite seem to be living the sweet life manning the position.
He enters the 2012 season for all intents and purposes as a fourth year starter and poised to break nearly every passing record in Sooners history. And yet, there is a vocal contingent amongst OU fans who were actually anxious for him to declare for the NFL a year early. Many of these same critics are eagerly anticipating the 'Blake Bell era' despite how shaky Bell has appeared in non-Belldozer situations (i.e. passing, which this just in is kind of important for quarterbacks).
Bell's emergence as a dominant force in a specific role in this OU offense could potentially difficult situation this coming season. Is there an obligation to prepare him, assuming of course you believe the coaches see him as Jones' heir apparent, for 2013? Or do the coaches focus on what they know works, the Belldozer, and maximize their chances to win as many games as possible in 2012? An interesting situation to be sure and one, quite frankly, there likely isn't just one right answer.
However, why let something like that prevent two "armchair" quarterbacks from arguing both sides of the equation?
Matt: Alright, let's talk quarterbacks. It seems to me that the general perception is that Landry Jones returning for senior year is a bad thing. I've got to be honest, this is a concept I just don't understand.
With Jones, the Sooners have the most experienced quarterback in the Big XII as well as the all-time passing leader at Oklahoma. I get all of the hype around Blake Bell. He's a strong leader who seems to make good decisions at running the ball and has a cannon for an arm. While I believe his future is bright at Oklahoma often lost in the shuffle is the fact that he is yet to surpass Drew Allen as the number two quarterback on the depth chart. The main knock against Bell is reading through progressions and pulling the trigger at the right time. Unless OU is going back to the days of the wishbone he is not the answer at quarterback at this time. Not saying that he won't be in the future, but give me my choice of quarterbacks right now for OU and it will be Landry Jones hands-down. To put it simply, Jones gives Oklahoma their best chance for success in 2012.
Jordan: I certainly wouldn't attempt to argue that anyone other than Landry Jones gives OU the best chance at winning this season, but at what point do you have to start developing that next guy for when Landry isn't here next year? And for me at least, that's what this is about. In my opinion, it's not about bagging on Landry and what he does or doesn't do well. And it's certainly not about advocating for Blake Bell to be the starter over Jones.
That said, I think Heupel has had chances to develop Bell as a passer and for reasons I'm sure we'll never know has chosen (or at least appeared to chose) not to take advantage of them. Assuming Bell has a role in this offense again in 2012, one of the MAJOR priorities has to be getting him work doing those things you mentioned he still needs work on. Yes, we know he can come in and pound it in on the ground from the five yard line. And we all love that. But there are just some things you can really only learn/improve upon in practice vs. live game situations and I think based on what we saw last year (admittedly in a very small sample size) we can all agree Bell needs more work with progressions and pulling the trigger in live game situations.
As for whether or not Bell has actually passed Allen as QB2, we'll never know that because Bob doesn't want us (or anyone) to know that. We all think if something were to happen, that Allen would be the first guy off the bench but that's just an assumption on all our parts.
So, for me, this leads into a question for you and one the coaches will obviously be facing this coming season. With Bell, do you continue to do what you know works (i.e. the Bell-dozer) and what gives you the best chance to win the most games possible? Or when Bell is in the game, do you maybe not run with him as frequently as you normally would and instead use him to pass the ball more in an effort to develop him for this season and those to come?
There are risks/benefits to both and while I'm pretty sure I know my answer, I'm very interested to hear what you think.
Matt: Obviously this is a Bob Stoops issue and it's one that's been around for long was he has been head coach at Oklahoma. Under Stoops the backup quarterback simply just doesn't get much playing time. It's been that way through all four of his offense coordinators and I don't see it changing anytime soon.
Are there areas that Bell can benefit from with actual game time? Sure! Does Bell deserve it? No! I think that we are agreed that there are still areas in which Landry Jones needs to improve. He is the quarterback and he's going to play the majority of the reps even when the Sooners are up by half a hundred.
I do believe that we will see more added to Bell's plate in 2012. While I'm a big fan of the, "if it ain't broke don't fix it" role, there's just too much potential there not to explore it. Blake Bell's primary role this fall will be as a running quarterback but as opposing defenses sell out to stop the "Bell-dozer" package it can't help but open up some areas in the passing game. It's all going to be about trust though. How much trust can he gain from the coaching staff this summer and what will he actually do when they give him more responsibility on the field? That's going to be the main issue.
Jordan: "Does he deserve it? No!" Wow, really? What has he done not to deserve it? Do you not agree that B.Stoops owes it to himself, his staff, and all the players that will be back next year to at least in some way (we can argue how much of course) to prepare a QB for next year even if that player isn't Bell? Why would you voluntarily ignore the opportunity to do so this season when you have plenty of opportunity to do so only? So you can go into next season with a totally unproven commodity at the most important position on the field? Does anyone associated with this school/team want to experience what Texas has gone through the last two years (and possibly more) because of how ill prepared they were with their QB position?
If, as you say and I'd agree, the coaches need to develop that trust in Bell (or Allen) that they can make the right read/throw when needed, if they don't do that this coming season when is it happening?!? During next spring/summer in practices where they have a blue jersey on and can't get touched which in no way whatsoever represents the situation they'd be called upon to make plays every Saturday?
I'm sorry, but that just makes zero sense to me. If you can develop Bell/Allen/whoever this year without sacrificing the chance at wins, for me it's a no-brainer you do everything you can to make that happen.
Matt: Really! I'm not going to buy an argument that he does deserve it and here's why.
Name a backup quarterback under Bob Stoops who has received significant playing time. Nate Hybl, Jason White, Paul Thompson, and Sam Bradford all received very little playing time as reserves and yet still went on to lead Oklahoma to conference championships or even better.
If Bell can't even get to a point where he's the clear #2 on the depth chart (all signs indicate that Allen still holds that position) then there is no way to say that he deserves playing time in 2012. The only QB that we can say deserves playing time is Jones.
Quarterbacks for the 2013 season and beyond will be developed on the practice field (where they work on fundamentals, motions and learning the offense) and not on the game field. If they can't do something in practice then they won't be able to do it in a game.
There is going to be a fantastic QB battle next spring and fall for the successor to Jones.
Jordan: You make a really good point with those past QBs and, frankly, one I had not previously considered. Though, to be fair, the only fair comparison in my opinion to Bell would be Paul Thompson. Those other guys had played QB all (or at least most) of their lives and all those familiar w/ Bell's story know that is not the case. And I think it's that qualifier that changes the circumstances, but as you've correctly pointed out that would be going against Stoops' 13 year history. So clearly the chances of you being correct are significantly greater.
Matt: And that's a good point you make as well. Josh Heupel is building a solid reputation for being a great quarterbacks coach and has a great system in place at OU for bringing up young talent. I'm excited to see how Bell develops in the next couple of years and like I previously stated, next spring and summer are going to be a lot of fun to watch.