Thompson moves back to QB, will start, Stoops says

Updated: August 4, 2006, 9:28 AM ET
Associated Press

NORMAN, Okla. -- Paul Thompson will move back from wide receiver to take over as Oklahoma's starting quarterback, a role vacated when Rhett Bomar was dismissed for violating NCAA rules.

A backup the previous three seasons, Thompson had won the starting job outright last fall but was supplanted by Bomar after the Sooners lost to TCU in Thompson's first career start.

"We feel there's no question that the amount of experience that Paul has for us is really good experience," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said Thursday. "He's been on the field for us. He's competed. He's been taking quarterback snaps for four years. We're expecting Paul to do well."

In his career, Thompson has completed 42 of 73 passes for 428 yards. He caught 11 passes for 106 yards after moving to receiver last season.

"Realize for the last four years he has been our backup quarterback all four years," Stoops said. "The only time he has not been a quarterback has been 15 practices here in the last spring. Last year, if there was anything that happened, we were going with Paul."

Thompson, who'd waited for his turn as Nate Hybl and Heisman winner Jason White wrapped up their careers at Oklahoma, appeared to get his chance last fall. After a competition with Bomar that had lasted throughout spring and fall practice, Thompson was named the starter heading into the season opener.

Coaches changed their minds after Thompson fumbled twice and threw one interception in the upset loss to TCU. Bomar, who came in to replace Thompson, also fumbled to set up a TCU touchdown.

"At the time, all things considered, Paul had had more snaps than Rhett and their competition was pretty close. It was darn close, in our minds," Stoops said. "That being the case, we felt Rhett had had far less snaps, that given the opportunity to have more, that he would progress further and have longer to play."

After Bomar's dismissal on Wednesday, coaches were left to decide whether to move Thompson again or go with one of three quarterbacks who'd never taken a game snap at Oklahoma: junior-college transfer Joey Halzle, freshman Sam Bradford and walk-on Hays McEachern.

"This isn't anything against the young guys. They don't have the experience in our program and in our offense that Paul does," Stoops said.

"Joey is a young guy that's come along from a junior college that still has three years to play that we really like. Joey just needs to be brought along more. He needs more experience. And Sam Bradford's only been here in the summer."

Stoops met with Thompson on Tuesday and asked him to think about the decision and discuss it with his parents. Thompson returned Wednesday to accept the job. His hopes to play in the NFL were among his considerations.

"That was part of it. I want to be able to showcase my talent, but the total focus is on this team right now and winning some games," Thompson said.

"There's no better position to show your athletic ability than the quarterback. You've got the ball every play and you're able to make a lot of plays."

Stoops complimented Thompson for being willing to face the scrutiny that comes with the position.

"That takes a lot of courage and a lot of guts because of, again, the magnitude of it all," Stoops said. "That's the kind of guy he is. He's as special a young guy that we have coached here."

Thompson said he would throw passes to warm up prior to summer drills, but he hadn't thrown a passing route between the Holiday Bowl and the start of Oklahoma's fall practice on Thursday afternoon.

"My dad told me, he kept telling me, 'You better get out and throw something. Throw at a tree. Throw at a house,'' Thompson said.

Thompson said he felt his first practice went well, especially considering the quick change. His throws were crisp and on target, and Stoops even urged fans to cheer when the new quarterback completed passes. The most noticeable problem was a couple of botched exchanges with the center.

"It's just hard to switch like that. I've switched a couple times," Thompson said. "Just switching all around and just trying to stay focused with a positive attitude, that's the hardest thing."

Stoops said he still expected his team to be able to contend for the Big 12 championship. Adrian Peterson, the Heisman Trophy runner-up two seasons ago, shared that sentiment.

"He's got talent. If he didn't, he wouldn't be at the University of Oklahoma," Peterson said. "It's up to him to step up to the plate and get it done, and I feel like he will."

Stoops said he expected the Sooners to make adjustments so the offense is better suited to Thompson's abilities. He said he thought coaches didn't adapt to Thompson much last season and instead kept the offense used with 2000 Heisman Trophy runner-up Josh Heupel, Hybl and White.

"I think it's fair to say that we can do more as a coaching staff to play into what fits him and what he likes more," Stoops said. "And some of it will be the same. But we can also implement some factors in our offense that can blend to his athletic ability as well."

New offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson, the team's former offensive line coach, said he had planned to take a week to 10 days to determine the team's strengths even if Bomar was still on the team. Now, he'll make his evaluations with Thompson under center.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press