NORMAN, Oklahoma — Trevor Knight created a monster with his dominant Sugar Bowl performance.
As a redshirt freshman, he passed for 348 yards and four touchdowns and was the MVP in Oklahoma's 45-31 upset victory over Alabama in January. He was rewarded with the unquestioned starting job and a newfound fame that gave him increased speaking opportunities and lifted his Twitter following to more than 25,000.
With those spoils comes a new level of pressure. Oklahoma's already rabid fans are fired up. The Sooners are expected to be in the mix for the national title, and they face a bright spotlight with a quarterback who has had one dominant game in his career. Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said the key is for Knight to duplicate that kind of performance, starting Aug. 30 against Louisiana Tech.
"It all has to keep happening," Stoops said Saturday during Oklahoma's Media Day. "I think he'll learn and grow off of what he did last year, not just in the Sugar Bowl, but in particular, in the last couple of games — the Kansas State game, the Oklahoma State game away from home and how he played well in those games, and now he'll just learn more from it."
Knight understands that most people are looking only at his breakout performance in New Orleans and expecting more of the same.
"I expect it every game too," he said. "I actually want to build on that. That's kind of the baseline. That's the best I've played, and I want to build on top of that. It's a confidence booster for me and obviously, there will be ups and downs during the season, but you want everything to go well and you want to play well."
Quarterbacks coach Josh Heupel said Knight already has taken steps to show he's ready to take his game up a notch. He said Knight worked hard in the offseason and has been strong in early practices.
"I think he has a much understanding of defenses," Heupel said. "He sees rotation and pressures better. When you incorporate those two things with understanding our offense at a higher level, he's much more decisive in his decision-making. That's the progression of what you saw from the first couple of ball games to the middle of the season to the way he finished the season. I'm excited about what he can do here if he continues."
Blake Bell, Knight's competition at quarterback last year, has moved to tight end. Bell said Knight is more comfortable now that he's not fighting for the job.
"It is taxing when you're competing with a guy and you keep competing and competing," Bell said. "It's tiring. I think that Trev, he's kind of relaxed. He's already got one year under his belt. He's coming off that Sugar Bowl win. That's big-time for him. I think the whole team's kind of excited for him and we're all excited just for everyone."
Heupel said his message to Knight is the same as the message to the rest of the team.
"You have to avoid and not listen to outside noise," he said. "That's Twitter, Facebook, it's your friends and family, it's your girlfriend, it's your buddy that's slapping you on the back talking about what's in a preseason magazine. At the end of the day, you're in this arena, as a coach and as a football player, because you enjoy the opportunity to go out compete and make things happen."
Heupel said so far, Knight hasn't let his new situation affect him.
"He's the same guy every single day he comes in this building," Heupel said. "Because of the way he competes and his focus in the meeting room and the practice field, you know he's going to continue."
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP