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Oklahoma redshirt sophomore quarterback Spencer Rattler entered the 2021 season with high expectations. Regarded as a Heisman contender and in the discussion for the 1st overall pick of the 2022 NFL Draft, Rattler had it all going for him.
Until he didn’t. Until he was replaced by freshman phenom Caleb Williams when the Sooners were down 35-17 against Texas on Saturday. Rattler had been booed by Sooners fans in prior weeks after his play left a lot to be desired. Head coach Lincoln Riley finally made the switch to Williams on Saturday, and it paid off. Williams finished 15 of 24 passing for 211 yards, two touchdowns, 88 rushing yards and one rushing touchdown in Oklahoma’s 55-48 comeback victory over the Longhorns.
Riley officially has a quarterback controversy on his hands, with two talented quarterbacks ready to play. Riley spoke to the media on Tuesday and said he’d consider deploying a two-quarterback system against TCU this Saturday, although it goes against his philosophy.
“I have, I have,” Riley said. “I guess to my core, I’m not in favor of it. … But (just) because it’s maybe something that I don’t deep down really believe in, I don’t know that I’d ever take it off the table if I felt like it could help our team. I guess at the surface, it’s not something I would want to have, but you never know. I could stand up here and say, ‘Heck no’, and then we go do it on Saturday. So we’ll just see how it evolves.”
It’s the first quarterback question that Riley has had to face during his tenure in Norman. Riley hit the jackpot with Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray and Jalen Hurts in recent years, who are all NFL starting quarterbacks today.
With Rattler thought to be on that trajectory and now in limbo as the starter, many have asked the question: could Rattler enter the transfer portal? Riley was asked that question and was open in his response.
“So, there’s never any guarantees,” Riley said. “I mean, you can’t predict the future, but I would fully expect to have both those guys the entire season. I would. Again, I know there’s never 100%, but I think both those guys are pretty committed to this football team. I think it’s a factor. I think, as you plan long term, it is. I think what we’ve tried to preach with our guys especially in the middle of the season, I mean, one is your commitment level to this place and then these opportunities pop up … I could go through 50 guys right now of guys that maybe an opportunity didn’t show and then all of a sudden, bam, here you go. But I think our point to these guys has been as this question has been brought up — I’m not talking about the quarterback, just the team in general — has been, what is the advantage for leaving midseason?
“If you’re wanting to leave and go search for another opportunity, then that’s fine but you’re going to leave. … You can’t practice football on your own. You can train and do all that, but you can’t actually practice football by yourself. So here you can be sharpening your skills, helping the team in a way and maybe opportunity pops up here, bam you’re ready. And if it doesn’t, all you’ve done is make yourself more marketable and more ready for the next stop. And then the other thing I’ve told these guys, I’ve been honest about it — And I get maybe other coaches (don’t feel) this way and I don’t want to speak for everybody — but I can tell you personally, if I’m looking at a guy, maybe it’s a potential transfer coming here, and that guy quit on his team midseason. Unless there’s a extenuating circumstance, I’m going to have a hard time taking him. And I think a lot of other coaches would echo that as well. So, I mean because the question in your mind comes up as well. He did it there, why wouldn’t he do it here with us?”
That’s a pretty candid response from Riley, who clearly believes both Rattler and Williams will stay on board for the rest of the season. From there, it’s hard to tell what will happen, but No. 4 Oklahoma will need both their quarterbacks to stay healthy as they look to win the Big 12 and find a way into the College Football Playoff for a fifth time since its inception in 2015.