The career of QB Rhett Bomar started a bit rough, to say the least. He committed to OU, expecting to have a clear line to the job as a true freshman. True, Paul Thompson was there, but with competition, Bomar knew that he could step it up and try to win the job.
Then Jason White did the unexpected—the fifth year senior decided to come back for a sixth year of eligibility granted by injury. When Bomar committed earlier in the year, Jason White was simply an outgoing senior, a guy who had two bum knees and hadn’t finished a season with playing time without getting hurt one way or another. When the 2003 season was over, White was the Heisman Trophy winner, coming back to defend his honor as the most outstanding player in the nation.
After sitting out the 2004 season learning the system and honing his skills during a redshirt season, he faced a heated battle during the spring and summer with Paul Thompson. Bomar was the fan-favorite in many ways, he was the up-and-comer who was highly recruited and had the arm and tools to become the next John Elway (as the Daily Oklahoman put it). Thompson proved to be more level-headed by not making as many mistakes during practice—showing the signs of a veteran in the system. The coaches were impressed more with Thompson’s consistency than by Bomar’s flashes of brilliance and Thompson received the job.
The unthinkable happened the first week of this season as Oklahoma, a team that had played in two consecutive BCS title games, lost at home to TCU, a solid mid-major, but a 20+ point underdog. The 17-10 loss to the Horned Frogs featured little in the way of offensive prowess. Neither quarterback played well, with Thompson responsible for three turnovers, Bomar for one in his limited action.
Still, the OU coaching staff decided the Paul Thompson-era at OU would just last one game. Bomar got the start for the second game against Tulsa, and while the Sooners got the win 31-15, it was mostly because of Adrian Peterson, who ran for 230 yards. Bomar got just 13 pass attempts and turned those into only 42 yards. The Golden Hurricane had almost that many on their two interception returns. It got so bad that even with a slim 7-6 lead at the half, Oklahoma did not even attempt a pass in the second half, running every time to their 24 second half points.
Since then, however, Bomar has grown up, and done it fast. He has been to the road at storied programs like UCLA and Nebraska. He has played against Texas in the Cotton Bowl. He has had lots of success as of late, with the Sooners winning five of their last six. Two of those games featured either no Adrian Peterson or an ineffective one.
Bomar showed perhaps the most in the Sooners’ loss at Texas Tech. Bomar had been enjoying a rough outing the first three quarters of the game, but he managed to put that behind him and lead OU back to the lead. Bomar took the team under his reigns, leading them on 11 and 9 play drives for TD’s to put OU in the lead 21-17. His stats weren’t great for the game, but he showed the ability to put that behind him and lead his team to victory. Only questionable calls later in the game kept OU from winning the game.
People look at Bomar’s stats and may ask what the big deal is. Well, one must not forget that Jason White’s favorite targets all left with him. Mark Bradley was drafted by the Bears, Mark Clayton by the Ravens, and Brandon Jones by the Titans. The OL lost two four-year starters, Wes Sims and Vince Carter to go along with Outland Trophy winner Jammal Brown. The cupboard wasn’t bare, but it wasn’t exactly left stocked full either. The talent may be as good as it was under White, but the polished experience wasn’t there.
Bomar has grown faster than his freshmen WR corps. Earlier in the year the passes weren’t hitting their targets as often. Costly turnovers were plaguing the Sooners more, and blame could be directed at the QB position. Now, more often than not, the passes are on target, but the wideouts aren’t catching the balls.
Judging his improvement with his experience throughout the year, the sky is the limit for this freshman QB. If he continues to improve at this rate, he could be one of the greats, continuing the Oklahoma tradition that goes back to Mildren, Watts, Holieway, Heupel, and White. He already had the talent, now he has the experience to go with it. . . it could be a scary three years for the rest of the conference.
Josh Cline is a staff writer for Big12-fans.com and hails from Norman, OK and follows Sooner football intensly. He spent two football seasons in Big Ten country at Northwestern before transferring to the University of Oklahoma, where he currently attends. His focus is primarily on the Big 12, but can drift into national issues as well.