In a conference of mostly new quarterbacks this year, Oklahoma's Blake Bell is somewhat of a paradox. The redshirt junior had played in 20 career games heading into 2013, more than a majority of the quarterbacks to play in the Big 12 this season.
Yet Bell was only used in limited, short-yardage packages for the past two seasons. Since the scope of what he was asked to do was narrow, he attempted only 20 passes in his career before this season.
Still, Bell was generally presumed to be the starter for the Sooners in 2013 right up until the moment when redshirt freshman Trevor Knight was given the job during preseason camp instead. It was indeed a surprise—perhaps the biggest "upset" in a preseason position battle—but Bell remained ready in the event that something changed.
It didn't take long. Knight sustained a knee injury and was largely ineffective in a Week 2 win over West Virginia. Bell finished the game and started the following week against Tulsa. Last Saturday, he led Oklahoma to a key road victory over Notre Dame. On the season, he's completed 71 percent of his passes for 683 yards and six touchdowns.
It should be a good combination. Knight is a great option quarterback and can provide some big play ability. But Bell's game is simply more complete right now.
With Bell starting, Oklahoma's offense began clicking on another level against Tulsa in Week 3. Granted, the Golden Hurricane's defense isn't the most formidable group, but offensive coordinator Josh Heupel was able to put Bell in situations where he could get the ball out quickly and let playmakers do what they do in space.
Bell ran some against Tulsa, but it wasn't a centerpiece of the OU offense that day like it may have been with Knight in the game.
Things didn't change much last Saturday against Notre Dame in terms of how Bell was used. The Sooners only had a couple of short-yardage situations where Bell attempted to rush for a first down. And, in fact, neither attempt moved the chains.
Notre Dame actually did a great job of containing Bell last year (six yards on four carries) in a 30-13 win in Norman when Bell came in for short-yardage situations. It would appear OU learned its lesson from that game. While Bell is big and physical, so is Notre Dame's three-man defensive front. It's a matchup that's favored the Irish both times.
But Bell has shown he's more than a one-trick pony, which was going to be the biggest thing to watch from him heading into this season anyway. He can run if he needs to, but he's shown he's equally effective distributing the ball quickly on these one-read throws, which is a majority of what OU's offense is based on right now.
That, and a good ground game.
What Bell brings to this offense more than anything is composure. Even though he's only had a limited role in the offense in the past, Bell looks like a quarterback who has played a lot of football. Going on the road and winning in his second career start showed he can lead too.
So when things get tough later this year, and they surely will with road games at places like Baylor and Oklahoma State, it's good for Oklahoma to have a seasoned guy like Bell who can do it all.
Ben Kercheval is the lead writer for Big 12 football. All quotes and information obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise. You can follow Ben on Twitter @BenKercheval.
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