Monday, March 27

Lincoln Riley should start Caleb Williams, but keeping Spencer Rattler engaged is key for Oklahoma

Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley will not publicly name a starting quarterback for Saturday’s game against TCU.

“I don’t plan on naming a starting quarterback here this week,” Riley said at his news conference Tuesday. “We’ll see how the week unfolds, and we’ll see where we are when we get to Saturday. … See you Saturday at 6:30 pm”

Speculative guessing is easy. Freshman Caleb Williams, who led the comeback against Texas last week at the Red River Showdown, will likely take over from preseason Heisman Trophy favorite Spencer Rattler in one of the season’s most impressive stories. 2021.

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However, is it really that impressive? We have seen this before.

On January 8, 2018, Alabama coach Nick Saban replaced Jalen Hurts with freshman Tua Tagovailoa in the CFP championship game. The Crimson Tide won 26-23 with the now legendary Tagovailoa winning TD pass at second and 26.

The following season, Dabo Swinney replaced Kelly Bryant, who led the Tigers to the CFP the previous season, with rookie Trevor Lawrence after four games. Bryant transferred to Missouri during the season and Lawrence led a national championship race.

Riley can learn from those two situations to keep the Sooners on the same path as the CFP in an effort to win the program’s first national championship since 2000. The short-term perspective is that Riley has a decision to make before Saturday’s meeting. in primetime against the Horned Frogs, where the focus will be on that immediate pick.

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Williams should be that option. The Sooners offense unleashed its big-play potential with Williams to rebound from a 28-7 deficit against Texas. Running back Kennedy Brooks and catcher Marvin Mims had their best games of the season.

Remember, once Saban put in Tagovailoa, that was it. Tagovailoa won the starting job the following season, but Hurts played a significant role on offense throughout the year.

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So what about Rattler? Riley said the second-year quarterback got the day off Monday before returning to practice.

“Considering the circumstances, he’s doing well,” Riley said. “It’s not easy for a young man. This guy is publicly painted in a different way than he really is.”

Rattler was considered the favorite for the Heisman Trophy and the potential number one in the 2022 NFL Draft. He also won NIL deals and, like Hurts, did not lose as a starting quarterback in the season in which he was replaced. It’s just that Oklahoma had several one-point games against FBS competition, and Williams was the right spark at the right time.

Riley reiterated that Rattler won the competition at fall camp, but the dynamics have changed.

So will Rattler transfer immediately like Bryant did? Riley addressed that question as well, knowing that the transfer portal is more active than it was in 2018.

“There are never guarantees, but I would expect to have those two guys all season long,” Riley said. “Both guys are quite committed to this soccer team.”

Rattler’s father echoed those thoughts. to OUDaily on Wednesday , saying the family will make a decision about their future after the Oklahoma season.

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The best possible scenario? Rattler maintains a role, even if he is the backup, for the remainder of the season. After all, he got back into the game and made the two-point conversion that tied the game against Texas last week.

Look back at those situations in Alabama and Clemson to see the value of a backup quarterback. Hurts replaced an injured Tagovailoa and led a 35-28 comeback victory against Georgia in the 2018 SEC championship game. Lawrence was knocked out with a concussion in the first game after Bryant’s transfer, and Chase Brice played the hero in a 27-23 comeback against Syracuse on September 29, 2018. Those were key moments in that season, which ended with Clemson beating Alabama. in the CFP championship game.

Oklahoma has yet to make the championship game despite four playoff appearances. They’ve also had the right quarterback every time, with a pair of Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks in Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray along with Hurts, who transferred from Alabama after the 2018 season.

That’s another best-case scenario for Riley. Let the quarterback situation be resolved after the season. Remember, the Sooners have won 14 straight games.

“The sky is not falling at all,” Riley said. “We keep it in perspective.”

RIley can handle this, including with the transfer portal and NIL, in this CFP career. Penn State lost starting quarterback Sean Clifford last week, and the fall at QB was catastrophic in a 23-20 loss to Iowa. Oklahoma still has half a season left in the Big 12, where the Sooners are seeking a seventh championship of consecutive conference.

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“This has typically been the moment for us where we came up and played our best ball,” Riley said. “That is absolutely our intention at this time.”

To do that, Riley must start Willliams and see where it goes. He could emerge as a Heisman Trophy candidate and difference maker for a show that has been eager to show that to its future SEC peers on the CFP stage. But Rattler needs to stay engaged and involved, whether it’s in certain packages for each game or in a backup feature, for this to work.

That’s the win-win Riley must look forward to. Perhaps that plan will lead the Sooners to an elusive national championship.

“For me, I feel like I have two really good players,” Riley said. “I don’t see it as a problem or a problem. You have to choose between two big options, and that’s a good position to be in. I know both kids will respond no matter what position they are in.”

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