As spring practices for Oklahoma get underway on March 22, it’s time to begin taking stock of what the Sooners have on campus in each respective position group. Here at the Sooners Wire, we’ll give you a breakdown of what to watch for as Oklahoma begins preparations for the 2022 season.
Yesterday, Josh Helmer took a look at a wide receiver group that lost several of their top pass catchers but looks to be in great shape anyway. Today, we’ll take a look at the position throwing them the football, the quarterback.
No position group has seen as much upheaval in the last few months as the quarterback group. After a benching and a coaching change in the last eight months, Oklahoma was well connected in the transfer portal and despite its losses at the position, remain in fantastic shape at quarterback.
Returning Starter: None
The Oklahoma Sooners lost both starting quarterbacks from the 2021 season when Spencer Rattler transferred to South Carolina and Caleb Williams transferred to Southern California.
The Sooners were proactive on the recruiting trail and in the transfer portal. Though they didn’t get a commitment from Dillon Gabriel until after Williams entered the portal, Jeff Lebby’s connection helped the Sooners have some insurance as Williams pondered his decision.
Other key returnees
The Oklahoma Sooners are returning six snaps from 2021 at the quarterback position. Ralph Rucker’s six snaps. That’s how important getting Dillon Gabriel in the transfer portal was and why many think the Sooners should try to grab another quarterback with some experience in the portal.
There’s certainly some talent here, but there isn’t a player that the Sooners could turn to after Gabriel that has taken significant snaps at the collegiate level.
The first thing Jeff Lebby did when he got to Norman was aggressively pursue Nick Evers on the recruiting trail. Evers, who was previously committed to Florida became available after the Gators let go of Dan Mullens. Locking up the 2022 four-star quarterback was a huge get for Oklahoma and provided them a freshman insurance policy if they were forced to go that direction once the transfer portal smoke settled.
While Nick Evers is a talented player that has a bright future, the Sooners feel better about being able to turn to a player with the level of experience Dillon Gabriel brings to Norman.
Despite his 2021 season being cut short after just three games, Gabriel has played more than 1,000 snaps at the collegiate level. He’s thrown for more than 8,000 yards and has 70 touchdown passes on his ledger. He’s also done damage on the ground, rushing for eight touchdowns during his time with the UCF Golden Knights.
He’s the bonafide starter for the Oklahoma Sooners heading into 2022 and having that experience running the show for Lebby’s offense puts Oklahoma back into contention for the Big 12 title.
When Spencer Rattler was benched yet again in the Red River Showdown by Lincoln Riley, it seemed inevitable at that moment that Rattler was going to find a new home in 2022. It didn’t take long for him to land with one of the more beloved former assistant coaches the Sooners have had in Shane Beamer.
Though Lincoln Riley left for USC right after the Bedlam loss, Caleb Williams stuck around and played in the Valero Alamo Bowl. The Sooners won big over Oregon and there was some thought that Williams might stay with Oklahoma, but ultimately he followed the head coach that recruited him.
Jeff Lebby didn’t mince any words when he met with the media last month. Dillon Gabriel is the starter. There isn’t anyone on the roster that has the experience and production that can match Gabriel. And in the Big 12, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better quarterback than the Sooners’ starting quarterback. Over at Athlon Sports, Gabriel was ranked No. 1 in their early Big 12 quarterback rankings.
Gabriel’s presence gives the Sooners an advantage as they head into spring ball. Familiar with Jeff Lebby’s offense, Gabriel can help impart it to the rest of the unit as they work toward the 2022 season.
Under the radar player
Micah Bowens was a 3-star quarterback and the No. 16 ranked dual-threat quarterback in the 2020 class for the Penn State Nittany Lions. He didn’t get on the field for the Sooners in 2021, but will factor into the backup quarterback competition this spring.
Position battle to watch: Backup Quarterback
Beyond Dillon Gabriel, the quarterback hierarchy is up for grabs. Nick Evers, the four-star recruit in the 2022 class will have a shot to be the guy behind Gabriel, but he’ll get competition from Ralph Rucker, the only other guy to get snaps at quarterback in 2021. Then there’s Bowens, who’s dual-threat ability and time spent in two big-time college football programs could give him an edge in the quarterback race.