By Michael Kinney
The Moore American
MOORE — Kendal Thompson hasn’t had many chances to play football in front of people since he graduated from Southmoore. The former Southmoore quarterback has been regulated to the bench at Oklahoma as he watched Landry Jones rewrite the records books.
But now with Jones college career over with, Thompson finds himself in the middle of a hotly contested quarterback battle at OU. It’s a contest the sophomore seems to be enjoying.
“Most definitely,” Thompson said. “Coach (Josh) Heupel reiterates that every day. We are competing against each other but at the same time we have to support each other and that will help all three of us as a group.”
Since he arrived at Oklahoma, the only time the 6-1, 191-pound Thompson has had a chance to play with more than just his teammates watching has come during the annual Red/White Spring Game. Last year he got minimal playing time, but still showed flashes of what made him a standout with the SaberCats.
However, Saturday, playing in front of more than 29,000 Sooner fans at Owen Field, Thompson got the opportunity to make a strong case for why he deserves to get the starting nod. Rotating every series with Bake Bell and Trevor Knight, Thompson ran for 35 yards on eight carries and threw for 86 yards on 8-for-16 passing.
That included engineering the game-winning drive which concluded with a 15-yard touchdown pass with less than two minutes left in the scrimmage.
“I’ll have to watch the tape,” Thompson said. “You’re never satisfied as a ball player. There are some things I have to improve on and we’ll just keep fixing that and move forward.”
Thompson’s competition also had strong days. Bell completed 14-of-23 for 213 yards and two touchdown passes. Knight, a redshirt freshman, ran for 36 yards and completed 11 of 17 passes for 151 yards and a TD.
Overall, the Sooners coaching staff liked what they saw from their signal callers.
“I thought the quarterbacks all did a nice job,” coach Bob Stoops said. “Each of them don’t have their full assortment of personnel out there, there are some excellent players that did not play: you look at guys like Jalen Saunders, Trey Millard for sure, and then some of the injuries up front, so they played with a little bit of a tougher hand but that is good. You get a chance to see them stretched out in some tough situations but I thought overall that they did a nice job.”
Regardless of who gets the starting job, all three of them bring mobility to the position, which was absent during the Jones era.
“It will be different,” Co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said. “You saw that today because our guys will take off a little more than Landry probably did, during the course of the game or season. “It helps for the continuity of the offense. I was here when Jason White was the quarterback. After his knee surgeries he didn’t have a ton of mobility. Paul Thompson was the backup and we were able to work both types of systems without it being a major overhaul for our guys. I think it does help that all three are somewhat similar, but it doesn’t kill you if they are not.”
Even though Thompson ran for only 36 yards, his mobility behind the line of scrimmage was evident to the fans and OU defenders chasing him.
“Kendal is so quick and elusive, you think you got him and the next thing you know he’s 10 yards down the field and you’re chasing him,” Geneo Grissom said. “We have a lot of guys who can do it, we have Roy (Finch) and Trevor (Knight) and Blake (Bell). Blake is big and strong but he’s pretty shifty, too.”
The Sooners will head into the summer without having named a starting quarterback. According to the coaches, what the players do in August will go a long way in deciding who starts the first game Aug. 31 against Louisiana-Monroe.
“When Somebody has earned it,” Heupel said, “we’ll name a guy.”
More SaberCats: Southmoore was well represented Saturday during the annual Red/White Spring game. Besides the likes of alums Thompson, Julian Wilson and D.J. Ward showcasing their talents on the field, a current SaberCats was also on hand.
Junior Jalen Adams was at Memorial Stadium with several other high school recruits the Sooners have began to target.
Adams led the Cats last season with 39 receptions, 766 and eight touchdowns as the team’s main deep threat. His first college offer came from the University of Tulsa. Now the 5-10, 162-pounder has the Sooners showing interest in him.
Ward plays: Ward did play Saturday. He was cleared by the NCAA to participate in practice this week and it was the first he played in something close to a game since his junior year of at Lawton High.
“He was anxious. I laughed. They saw him out there and ran the naked (bootleg) on him. There you go. He hasn’t been on the field for a year and a half, and you’re going to run the naked on him. Rotten offensive guys,” coach Bob Stoops said. “It was good for him. I saw him on one of the pass rushes, they completed the ball, and he turned the corner and had the edge. He ended up slipping before getting to the quarterback, but it was good to see him do that.”
Ward had to sit out his entire senior season after transferring to Southmoore last year.
Michael Kinney Follow me @eyeamtruth firstname.lastname@example.org