August 29, 2013

Knight Comes from Out of Nowhere

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Just Joshin' is a commentary article written by recruiting editor Josh McCuistion. It's a lighthearted look at any topic possible relating to Oklahoma athletics.

It's never going to fail that when Oklahoma has a quarterback battle fans are going to pick 'their guy' either by personal feelings or by some arbitrary default. This spring and summer as the Sooners looked to replace Landry Jones with a trio of talented young signal callers was no different.

Backers of junior Blake Bell pushed his experience as a key element that no one else would be able to match.

Those who sung Kendal Thompson's praises talked about his game-changing ability running ability and pointed to the Sooners dismantling at the hands of Johnny Manziel.

Now, it should be stated before we go any further, that's not to say that Bell isn't a capable runner as his time as the 'Belldozer' is more than slight proof of. Equally I'm not about to say that Thompson isn't a respected leader on this team, by all accounts he is widely respected by teammates and coaches alike.

But the question was - what did Trevor Knight bring to the table? Even the most ardent of supporters kind of gave a 'just wait' nod of the head when asked about how he would aid Oklahoma's offense.

Well here we sit two days from Knight's first career start in his first game as a non redshirt player and here we sit just under seven months from the last time Jones would ever step on the field for the Sooners and the competition began in earnest.

So how on Earth did the longshot take home the job?

The answer isn't a simple one, and it's not even a singular one.

When people talked about Bell's leadership, many of those who thought - or perhaps, hoped against hope - that Knight could win the starting job talked about his rallying of the troops almost immediately upon the time of his commitment. In the late summer of 2011 Knight changed his pledge from Texas A&M to Oklahoma after the Sooners decided to make him an offer he'd be hoping would arrive.

From that moment forward, Knight began rallying the class, trying to work on other players to join him and simply increasing communication amongst the commitments of the class.

"All the guys that are here that are committed to Oklahoma, Durron (Neal), Derrick (Woods), Taylor (McNamara), Ty (Darlington) have all talked," one-time Sooner John Michael McGee said at the 2012 Army All-American bowl.

The bowl game took place in Knight's hometown of San Antonio and though he wasn't selected to play in the game he did show up to Army practices to be around his future teammates and begin to try and recruit more future Sooners.

"He was telling everybody hello, we're all just trying to persuade some more people to come to Oklahoma," McGee continued.

"This week, it's just another opportunity to get to meet and intermingle and just get to know each other."

It's a little thing but for an 18-year old to show up and be around players who were selected for something he was undoubtedly disappointed to not take part in is a level of maturity that many far older couldn't lay claim to.

It's a start toward leadership and it's something Knight, and others like him, either have or they do not. It's not wrong to say the same of Bell but while Bell is revered for it, it's something that too often went overlooked in regard to Knight and I was always left wondering was the only difference that Knight hadn't been around his teammates as long as Bell?

As perhaps the only reporter around the Oklahoma football media who has actually seen Knight play in a live action game I wasn't ever quite sure what to make of the comments about Thompson's running ability. Make no mistake, Thompson is a player with game-changing talent in the running game. He may not have his father's elite speed but as I always go back to, anyone who was at his 2010 state semifinal performance against Jenks knows his ability to make plays when the world is crashing down around him is a thing few quarterbacks can match.

That being said to hear most tell it in a straight line Knight was actually the fastest of the quarterbacks and ran times that matched up with many of the skill position players. We all know that a 40-yard dash time doesn't always translate and that there is a lot more to running with a football than running a straight line in, essentially, your underwear. But that being said, Knight never quite got his due as a runner.

And again, a simple look back to high school can show people just what type of runner Knight is. As a junior he rushed for over 1,000 yards along with 22-touchdowns, as a senior his yardage and touchdowns went down but his yards per carry went up as his San Antonio Reagan team went all the way to the 5A division two state quarterfinals.

That success as a senior came after a disappointing junior year for Knight both personally and for the Rattlers as a team and when Reagan opened the season with a disappointing loss against San Antonio Wagner it was Knight who rallied the troops and led a talented team to 12 straight wins before falling to eventual state runner-up and Texas super power Cibolo Steele.

So what's the point of all of this?

Well, while Bell was known as the experienced favorite, and Thompson was thought of as the exciting option it was Knight who came out on top. It's of course to be noted that Thompson was injured early in two-a-days and was taken out of the competition through no one's fault. However, perhaps it was the reality that while maybe Knight hadn't had the time to earn Bell's level of respect amongst his teammates or the ability to prove himself as Thompson had but perhaps having the proper mix of two talented teammates was just what Bob Stoops ordered.

The man who Sooner fans hope will air it out, flew under the radar all the way to Saturday night's starting position.

Not so slow, and quietly steady, won the race.

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