Redshirt freshman Bradford named Sooners' starter

Updated: August 21, 2007, 10:01 PM ET
Associated Press

NORMAN, Okla. -- Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford was chosen to start in the Sooners' opener against North Texas, winning a three-way competition.

Sam Bradford
AP Photo/Sue OgrockiSam Bradford beat out junior Joey Halzle and freshman Keith Nichol in being named Oklahoma's starting QB.

Coach Bob Stoops said Tuesday that Bradford, a redshirt freshman, proved the best able to play consistently, command the huddle and efficiently manage the game while avoiding horrible mistakes.

"Right now, he's the guy that we feel gives us the greatest chance to play at a high level, to compete for a championship and to be in the Big 12 South hunt, and we plan to try to be in it," offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said.

Bradford distanced himself from junior Joey Halzle and freshman Keith Nichol when he completed 12 of 17 passes for 130 yards and four touchdowns in a scrimmage Saturday. Stoops said the decision was made Sunday, and Bradford took every snap with the first-team offense in practice the next two days.

Stoops said the Sooners had not defined who would be Bradford's backup. He said the Sooners weren't currently planning to work in a second quarterback -- as national champion Florida did last season -- but he wouldn't rule it out.

"I believe more than anything that all of them together have made the position better, and they have all worked with the [starters] enough through this period of time that if we ever were in need to make a change ... that they would feel comfortable operating with any of these guys," Stoops said.

Bradford succeeds Paul Thompson, who led Oklahoma to the Big 12 championship last season.

Thompson took over at quarterback on the first day of fall practice last August, moving back to the position from wide receiver following Rhett Bomar's dismissal for breaking NCAA rules. After the move, Thompson addressed the team to bring them together and build confidence.

But Malcolm Kelly, the Sooners' top receiver, said this year Bradford simply started getting more and then all of the snaps with the first-team offense and players knew a decision had been made.

"There wasn't a grand announcement this year," Kelly said. "And last year, it was a lot more dramatic than it was this year. It wasn't anything like that."

Bradford, the tallest of the quarterback trio, stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 213 pounds. He threw for 2,422 yards and 19 touchdowns in his senior season at Putnam City North High School in Oklahoma City before redshirting a year ago. He was not allowed to speak to reporters.

"He's big, he can run around a little bit, he's real smart with the ball. He's not going to make silly mistakes out there on the field," Kelly said. "He's smart in the classroom and smart out there on the field. That's one thing you want in your quarterback."

Around Bradford, the Sooners return their entire corps of receivers and tight ends, plus four of their five linemen. Tailback Allen Patrick, who started after Adrian Peterson broke his collarbone last season, has missed the last two weeks of practice with a sprained ankle but is expected to return soon.

Coaches said they want Bradford to distribute the ball to those playmakers wisely, without being so cautious he misses opportunities.

"If you're going to win a championship, you need your quarterback to make plays, so our quarterback's going to have to make plays," said quarterbacks coach Josh Heupel, who led the Sooners to the 2000 national title.

"Do we have a lot of talent surrounding him, which will hopefully make his job easier as we go along? Yeah. But still, when you touch the ball every play like the quarterback does, he's going to have to make plays. We've asked him to play smart but be aggressive in his play."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press