How quickly do things change in a year? Last year, at this time, Oklahoma was a prohibitive favorite to make the College Football Playoffs. In fact, many tabbed the Sooners for their first National Championship since 2000. Now, the 2022 roster looks much different after the change from Lincoln Riley to Brent Venables. Look no further than the quarterback room to see how vast those differences are. Today, we break down that room as we look at the Oklahoma Sooners Spring 2022 quarterback preview.
A Changing of the Guard
Gone is 99% of Oklahoma’s passing production of a year ago with Spencer Rattler and Caleb Williams both moving on to South Carolina and USC respectively. Together they threw for 3,395 yards with 32 touchdowns and nine interceptions while completing 69.7% of their passes. While those numbers are extremely expressive, it will be difficult for the Sooners to replace a 2021 preseason Heisman frontrunner and a likely 2022 frontrunner as well. However, the task might not be as tall as some think.
The offensive production in 2021 was the lowest that it has been in Norman for quite some time. Actually, Oklahoma averaged less than 40 points per game for the first time since 2014. Oklahoma averaged 264 yards through the air and that was again the lowest total since 2014. Individually, Rattler struggled consistently with untimely turnovers throughout his career in Norman. As great of a freshman season as Williams had, he did struggle down the stretch with accuracy in only completing 56% of his passes over the last four games.
The New Regime
It didn’t take long for new offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby to make moves of his own in the quarterback room. First, he secured the transfer commitment of former UCF quarterback Dillon Gabriel. Then, he signed four-star quarterback Nick Evers late in the 2022 cycle. Both of those additions were clear and immediate needs. The Sooners went from an empty quarterback room with only one scholarship player to a room capable of challenging for a conference championship.
As we continue with the Oklahoma Sooners Spring 2022 quarterback preview, we break down the man that is affectionately known as dimetime. Gabriel comes to Oklahoma with excellent statistics from Central Florida. He has thrown for 8.037 yards with 70 touchdowns and just 14 interceptions in 26 career games. His season was cut short last year due to injury after only three games. The thing that most will notice is his incredible touch on the deep passes.
Look for Oklahoma and Lebby to utilize that specific talent more so than has been done under Riley. However, two areas that will be key to how good this Sooner team can be this year first is his accuracy. Gabriel is a career 61% completion passer. Oklahoma would like him to be in the mid to upper 60s. But, he completed 69% of his passes last year before the injury. Additionally, how will his game translate from facing Group of Five defensive talent to power five talent?
The Evers Factor
Evers has the luxury of knowing that he’ll have the opportunity to come in and learn in his first year at Oklahoma. Lebby has already announced that the job will be Gabriel’s with no quarterback competition. Having said that, the mentality will always be that you’re one play away from playing. Evers, on the surface, appears to be the prototypical dual-threat quarterback that thrives in Lebby’s system. Last year, at Flower Mound High School in Texas, Evers threw for nearly 2,400 yards and ran for another 650. He accounted for 33 total touchdowns with 14 of those coming on the ground. Many Sooner fans will be very interested in watching him in April in Oklahoma’s Spring Game.
What about depth?
It would appear that the biggest competition would be for who will back up Gabriel. As illustrated above, Evers will certainly have every opportunity to do so. However, Oklahoma has two other returners from a year ago that will be in the mix. That comes in the form of Ralph Rucker and Micah Bowens. In somewhat of a surprising move, Rucker earned the third-team nod a year ago over Bowens. Rucker is more of the typical drop-back passer, while Bowens is a true dual-threat and his running ability reminded some of Kyler Murray. Again, that will be a very interesting race to watch in the Spring as well as into Fall camp.
As we conclude our Oklahoma Sooners 2022 Spring quarterback preview, how active will the Sooners be in the portal? But, does Oklahoma need another quarterback with experience? If you read between the lines, it appears as though Lebby and Venables are testing the waters. The Sooners were in the Jaxson Dart sweepstakes until he eventually chose Ole Miss as his new destination. And, now, it appears there could be some mutual interest between Oklahoma and former Arizona State quarterback Jayden Daniels. When you couple these two names with the fact that Venables has said that Oklahoma will continue to be very aggressive in the transfer portal market, an addition to this room could come sooner rather than later.