Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight opened a ton of eyes when he threw for four touchdowns in a 45-31 upset over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.
He also validated head coach Bob Stoops' decision to start him over Blake Bell before the 2013 season, considered at the time an upset in its own way.
There's a different vibe heading into the '14 offseason because there is far more certainty surrounding the quarterback situation. Knight is considered the runaway favorite to win the starting job for next season. Bell moved to tight end, a position that physically speaking seems to fit him well, and backup Kendal Thompson announced last month that he would transfer.
The departures leave Oklahoma with three quarterbacks besides Knight: redshirt freshman Cody Thomas, early enrollee Justice Hansen and Texas Tech transfer Baker Mayfield.
Though Mayfield is a walk-on, he is still bound by NCAA and Big 12 recruiting restrictions. He will sit out the 2014 season (without a redshirt) and enter 2015 as a junior.
That leaves Thomas and Hansen. Thomas, a two-sport athlete in football and baseball, should be the No. 2 guy entering spring practice. Hansen was a 4-star prospect with offers from schools like Arizona State, Auburn and Texas A&M.
However, neither have thrown a pass in a college game.
Of course, Knight didn't have collegiate playing experience when he entered Week 1 against Louisiana-Monroe last season. Former quarterback Sam Bradford was a redshirt freshman when he earned the starting job in 2007, too.
The precedence is certainly there.
The difference is what Knight brings to the Sooners' offense as a runner. As Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman writes, dual-threat quarterbacks—not to be confused with running quarterbacks—give offenses an extra dimension:
The Sooners, for example, who since Bob Stoops' arrival relied on a prostyle quarterback. Strong of arm, smart of mind, feet sometimes encased in cement.
Not that there's anything wrong with that. The Sooners won a lot of trophies with the likes of Josh Heupel, Jason White, Sam Bradford and Landry Jones.
But the awakening of Trevor Knight in the Sugar Bowl, a run-around quarterback who still can throw (just ask Alabama), offers great promise for the future of the OU offense.
His stats won't reflect it—819 yards passing with nine touchdowns to five interceptions—but what separates Knight from the competition is that he's shown the ability to develop as a passer over the course of a season. From the '13 opener against ULM to the Sugar Bowl, Knight completely transformed for the better.
Oftentimes, that improvement takes place from one year to the next.
Sooners co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Josh Heupel deserves a lot of credit for developing Knight, especially given how much time Knight missed due to various injuries.
It's why the Sugar Bowl feels less like a fluke and more of a sign of what's to come from Knight. It's also why he's a lock to start again. That would likely be the case even if Bell and Thompson were still in the picture.
If Knight can keep improving as a passer in the offseason, he enters next year as the most dangerous dual-threat quarterback in the Big 12.
Barring an all-time spring/preseason camp from either Thomas or Hansen, or injury, Knight will trot out on to the field first on Aug. 30 against Louisiana Tech.
Ben Kercheval is the lead writer for Big 12 football. All recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports.
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