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April 12, 2014

Trevor Knight struggles in OU spring game

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Oklahoma sophomore Trevor Knight didn't look like his Sugar Bowl self at OU's scrimmage on Saturday. The incumbent at starting quarterback completed just 5-of-14 passes with an interception.

All four of OU's passing touchdowns were completed by the other three quarterbacks on the depth chart. Texas Tech transfer Baker Mayfield completed 9-of-9 passes for 125 yards with two touchdowns. Mayfield has to sit out the 2014 season due to NCAA transfer rules.

Knight's first three passes were all incomplete, and two of them ended in defensive deflections. The last of the three throws hit sophomore linebacker Dominique Alexander in the hands.


video by Eddie Radosevich

"Had some good plays, had some bad plays," Knight said. "It's spring practice, but it was fun to get out there."

Players like corner back Zack Sanchez and linebacker Eric Striker seemed to have Knight's number, but OU coach Bob Stoops wasn't worried about Knight's shaky performance in front of a spring game record crowd of 43,500.

"It's not easy throwing it on Zack Sanchez every day," Stoops said, "especially when he sees you every day, goes against you every day in pass skeleton, every day in team and all of a sudden those receivers are squeezed.

"Again, it isn't one guy. If they're not open no one is going to look good. At the end of the day, the disadvantage for the offense always is the case."

Perhaps.

Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops' defense certainly looked good. Striker got the quarterbacks twice and Ogbonnia Okoronkwo came up with a sack an interception that he returned 39 yards.

Even running a vanilla defense though, Mike Stoops conceded his squad had an edge on the offense.

"Our ability to run against those plays all spring, it gives you an advantage defensively, obviously with the (first string)," he said. "With the (second string), it didn't work that way. They're not as smart as the (first string)."

The most critical person of Knight's performance was predictably co-offensive coordinator and quarterback coach Josh Heupel. He thought there was a combination of things that contributed to Knight's poor outing.

"Not seeing the coverage, recognizing it," he said. "Not going to the right place. Fundamentally not being good when he is throwing it to the right spot."

Knight played the game without two of his most experienced wide receivers on the field in juniors Durron Neal and Sterling Shepard along with at least two starting offensive linemen in Nila Kasitati and Tyrus Thompson.

In all, 13 players missed the game due to injury or personal reasons.

Heupel expects more of the reigning Sugar Bowl MVP and the man who will most likely lead a Sooner team with high expectations for the upcoming season.

"Today, was certainly not his best day," Heupel said. "Not his best performance. Does he continue to make strides since the Sugar Bowl? Absolutely. As well as he played in the Sugar Bowl, it wasn't like he played perfect. No quarterback is going to."

Heupel made clear following the game Knight still has more to learn, has further to go in his effort to master the quarterback position in an offense that depends on him to create plays running and passing the ball.

"He's by no means a finished product," Heupel said. "He wasn't after the Sugar Bowl. He's not after today. The great thing about him is he's going to come into work and push himself to continue to get better."

He has lauded Knight's work ethic since making him OU's starter last August. But along with becoming a better quarterback he'll have to trust Knight to become a better leader.

That takes time. No one seems to know that more than Knight.

"Last year I was the youngest quarterback in our meeting room [who was eligible]," he said. "This year I'm the oldest. So stepping into that leadership role not just in our meeting room but as a whole team. Just getting the guys rallied around me and carrying that momentum from last year and working into next season."



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