Oklahoma football: OU QB situation was good before Lincoln Riley and will be after

No one would argue with the concept that winning championships at any level of football starts with having elite quarterback play, and Oklahoma football has been blessed with the best at that position in recent years.

When your program boasts multiple Heisman winners and finalists, it naturally becomes a place that attracts top quarterback prospects. After Lincoln Riley was hired by Bob Stoops as Oklahoma’s offensive coordinator in 2015, Sooner quarterbacks Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray won the Heisman Trophy is back-to-back years and former Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts transferred to OU and was the runner-up in the 2020 Heisman voting.

While all that was happening, the Sooners were able to attract and sign the No. 1 quarterback recruits nationally in both the 2019 and 2021 classes.

Because of all of this, it was no real surprise that Oklahoma, a program that historically has been associated with producing outstanding running backs, became known as QBU, the place recognized for developing top quarterback prospects for careers at the next level.

When the 2021 season kicked off last fall, Oklahoma had two former five-star, No. 1 quarterback recruits on its roster. Spencer Rattler, the returning starter, was considered the preseason favorite to win the Heisman Trophy. Rattler struggled in the early going and was replaced six games into the season by backup true freshman Caleb Williams, who had a sensational outing in the Sooners’ remarkable comeback victory over Texas and immediately entered the Heisman conversation.

O.K., enough of the backstory. We all know that Riley is gone to USC and so too are both Rattler (now at South Carolina) and Williams (in the transfer portal and searching for greener pastures).

When Williams announced two weeks ago that he was going to explore his options by entering the transfer portal, the Sooners were left with one scholarship quarterback (Micah Bowens, a transfer from Penn State) on the roster. The same day that Williams entered the portal, however, Dillon Gabriel, who starred two seasons playing for Josh Heupel and Jeff Lebby at UCF, flipped his transfer commitment to UCLA, choosing instead to come to Oklahoma.

In Gabriel’s case, it wasn’t a coincidence that Lebby is the new OU offensive coordinator. The Sooners were also able to sign Nick Evers, a four-star QB prospect rated by 247Sports as the No. 10 QB in the 2023 class. Evers had previously been committed to Florida. He will be on campus this spring as an early enrollee.

And new head coach Brent Venables may soon add another transfer quarterback to the roster.

Chubba Purdy, who played parts of two seasons at Florida State, completed a two-day visit to Norman on Thursday. He is the younger brother of Brock Purdy, a four-year starter at quarterback for Iowa State. The former four-star recruit and Arizona native is also visiting Nebraska.

And here’s an interesting twist for you conspiracy theorists or someone who likes the idea of getting back at Lincoln Riley. Former USC QB Jaxson Dart, who this week announced that he was leaving USC, is said to be considering three schools as landing spots. On3.com, which covers college football recruiting, is reporting that Dart will visit Oklahoma, Ole Miss and TCU before the end of the weekend.

Dart played six games for USC this season as a true freshman. He completed 62 percent of his passes for 1,353 yards and nine touchdowns.

If either Purdy or Dart were to choose to come to OU, Gabriel would likely still be the starter next season, but their addition along with the freshman Evers would replenish the QB depth that was thread bare earlier this month. And Purdy and Dart may not be the only transfers the Sooners are looking into at the position.

The overriding point being that Oklahoma will be just fine at the quarterback position. Mayfield, Murray and Hurts get all the attention because they represent recent Oklahoma history. But the fact is, the Sooners had Heisman-quality quarterbacks long before Riley arrived (Josh Heupel in 2000, Jason White in 2003-04 and Sam Bradford in 2008)

The Sooners had championship-caliber quarterback play before Lincoln Riley landed in Norman, and that will continue to be the case long after his departure.