Though he appeared in just eight games a year ago, the relative youth at the offensive skill position basically puts Knight in an immediate "veteran" position. The top three running backs—Brennan Clay, Damien Williams and Roy Finch—and three of the top four receivers—Jalen Saunders, LaColtan Bester and Jaz Reynolds—of the 2013 team are gone.
Though most of the offensive line is returning, not among them is senior center Gabe Ikard, one of the unquestioned leaders of the team.
In short, there are going to be a lot of new players looking to Knight to set the example.
Spring practice has only recently started for Oklahoma, yet Knight already knows what's being asked of him.
Here's what Josh Heupel, Knight's position coach and Sooners' co-offensive coordinator, had to say about Knight last week via the Tulsa World's Eric Bailey:
(He's had the) ability to speak with a louder stick in the weight room, in the locker room ... put more of his personality, his stamp on an offense. Also, on our football team, he's a great leader and a great kid on and off the field. He's extremely competitive. He's the same guy every single day in the meeting room and on the field.
Of course, Heupel is expected to pump up his star player. We'll have a better idea if Knight really has developed into the leader he needs to be when next season gets underway.
That means putting in extra time during workouts, practice and film study. It means working a little bit harder during the summer to develop chemistry with the center and wide receivers.
In the meantime, Knight appears to be taking his recent boost in stride. His 348 passing yards and four touchdowns in the Sugar Bowl win over Alabama has given him, and the team, a ton of momentum. With that comes more recognition around campus.
"But you've gotta enjoy that," Knight told Guerin Emig of the Tulsa World. "It only happens for so long and then you get old and what not. You've gotta enjoy it while it lasts."
With that newfound fame comes higher expectations—and greater scrutiny. Things are great for Knight now, but what if he has a bad game? What if he has two? Three?
That's when leadership really sets in.
Knight has had a lot thrown at him already, and the responsibilities aren't going to ease up anytime soon. If he's ready for that, and it sounds like he is, then he could be the face of the program for another two or three years.
For a program that's had its fair share of great quarterbacks, being a career starter would put him in that conversation.
Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand. All stats courtesy of cfbstats.com.
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