Berry Tramel says, that Bradford will be the OU starter, is Barry right? Time will tell.

Berry Tramel
The Oklahoman
NORMAN — Who will quarterback the Oklahoma football Sooners in Bedlam on Thanksgiving Saturday? Too early to say.
Who will quarterback the Soondogs against North Texas on Sept. 1? Not too early to say.

Sam Bradford.

That seemed clear on a crisp March Saturday as the Sooners scrimmaged 97 plays at Owen Field. The freshman from Putnam North, who redshirted last season, seems the certain starter by process of elimination.

Joey Halzle lacks arm strength and the coaches’ confidence. Eight months ago, when Rhett Bomar crossed into the land of the lost, OU coaches didn’t even grant Halzle the courtesy of competing for the QB job. The reins immediately went to Paul Thompson, summoned back from receiver exile, and that quick decision proved prescient.

Kid Nichol is a bright prospect, but beware any quarterback still awaiting his senior prom. Nichol is miles ahead of where he’d be had he stayed in Michigan for his last semester of high school but miles behind Bradford, who has an autumn headstart.

That leaves Bradford, a rangy, raw quarterback who seems capable, at least as a rookie, of avoiding the cataclysmic mistakes that will ignite Bob Stoops’ brow.

OU coaches, of course, remain stoic on the issue.

“Definitely premature,” said QB coach Josh Heupel of the Bradford declaration.

Too early, said offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson.

Stoops so much as said we could be waiting until the shadow of that North Texas epic before an announcement is made.

“We don’t have a timetable,” Stoops said. “When I feel the position’s earned, we’ll say so. With these guys, with so much work to still be done, it won’t be until we’re fairly close to game time.”

Let’s be clear. This quarterback derby does not match proven stallions. These three are totally unknown, totally untested. The Sooner staff truly has no idea how these guys will perform under the spotlight.

“It’s like with Paul Thompson,” Wilson said. “Until he got out there, we didn’t know if he could handle it.”

That’s why, Wilson admitted, OU could swap quarterbacks after Sept. 1. Stoops ordered a switch in 2001 (Nate Hybl out, Jason White in) and 2005 (Thompson out, Bomar in).

But for now, Bradford seems the clear leader, with little chance of being caught until enemy foes arrive. In the scrimmage, Bradford was a clear frontrunner. Bradford played the most and played the best.

Bradford got 44 snaps to Halzle’s 34 and Nichol’s 19. No small difference. Every major scrimmage is important in getting a quarterback ready to play. Bradford completed eight of 13 passing for 114 yards. One of his two thrown interceptions came on a tipped pass.

Maybe most telling, Bradford acts the part.

“The way he’s acting and communicating and talking is growing significantly,” Wilson said. “His body language, his eyes, the way he’s talking in the huddle, looking at people, is significantly more confident, I just think because he thinks he’s doing well, has a chance to be the guy. So he’s acting like it, too.”

Do not count out Nichol, in the long run. I call him Kid Nichol after Kid Nichols, the great turn-of-the-century baseball pitcher. But Kid Nichol’s coaches are fixated on his youth.

Wilson termed Nichol “the high school kid.”

Heupel called him “the Keith Nichol kid.”

But as an early-entry enrollee, Nichol by September will be a not-so-true freshman. His campaign could accelerate.

“The high school kid’s potential is the best,” Wilson said. Better arm and better feet. But Stoops has a solid history of going with quarterbacks who avoid landmines.

“At the quarterback position, you gotta find out how not to get yourself beat, first and foremost,” said Heupel, himself quite the savvy QB.

Coaches have dumbed-down the offense for Nichol. That won’t last. Once Nichol closes the mental gap, then he has a chance to win the job. But that is down a distant road.

Come September, Sam Bradford will be the Oklahoma quarterback.

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