Oklahoma football: Spring look-in at Sooner QB group for 2022

Sep 3, 2021; Orlando, Florida, USA; UCF Knights quarterback Dillon Gabriel (11) passes the ball against the Boise State Broncos during the second half at Bounce House. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 3, 2021; Orlando, Florida, USA; UCF Knights quarterback Dillon Gabriel (11) passes the ball against the Boise State Broncos during the second half at Bounce House. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports /

This is the seventh installment in a nine-part series previewing and breaking down the Oklahoma football position groups for the 2022 college season.

At this time a year ago, the Sooners had a pair of quarterbacks who both were No. 1 overall at their position in their respective recruiting classes on the roster, allowing Oklahoma seemingly to be set at the position for several more years.

And then, at the end of last season, everything changed.

Spencer Rattler began his second season as the Oklahoma starting quarterback last fall as the preseason favorite to win the Heisman Trophy, yet another Sooner signal-caller who appeared to be on his way to claiming college football’s top individual prize.

With the OU offense struggling to find consistency and misfiring too often six games into the season, Rattler was benched and replaced with freshman sensation Caleb Williams, who took over the quarterback duties for the remainder of the season.

Rattler, not unexpectedly, entered the transfer portal at season end, and with Lincoln Riley leaving for USC, Williams shortly followed Rattler into the portal. Rattler will play this coming season for former OU assistant Shane Beamer at South Carolina.

Just like that, Oklahoma was left with one scholarship quarterback on the roster and all kinds of uncertainty around the all-important quarterback position.

Although Williams left the door open when he entered the transfer portal that Oklahoma was still an option, everyone associated with the Sooner program knew that was not going to be the case.

Former UCF quarterback Dillon Gabriel had committed to play at UCLA for the 2022 season, but literally hours away from starting classes there for the spring semester, he broke that commitment and announced that he was coming to Oklahoma.

Aside from the former Sooner Williams, who had yet to commit to another program, Gabriel was arguably the best quarterback available in the transfer portal at the time new OU offensive coordinator Jeffy Lebby was looking for someone with experience to replace Williams.

It certainly helped that Lebby had a previous relationship with Gabriel when he was offensive coordinator under former OU All-American and Heisman runner-up Josh Heupel at UCF. While Lebby’s re-contact with Gabriel early this year was a major factor in getting him to flip his commitment to the Sooners, it was a 90-minute Zoom call with head coach Brent Venables that actually sealed the deal.

“The biggest thing was meeting with Coach Venables,” said Dori Gabriel, Dillon’s mother, and reported by OU beat writer Ryan Aber in The (Oklahoma City) Oklahoman. “He’s so approachable. Very passionate. Very strong vision of what he wants.”

No one in Gabriel’s family had ever been to the state of Oklahoma prior to the young quarterback’s commitment to come to OU.

By acquiring Gabriel from the transfer portal also sent a message that the Sooners weren’t going to standby and wait for Willians to make a decision on what he wanted to do. Williams eventually chose to follow his former coach to USC, probably the worst kept secret in college football this offeseason.

With Gabriel, Oklahoma gets a veteran quarterback who started 25 of 26 games at UCH (2019-2021) and passed to 8,037 yards and 70 touchdowns with 14 career interceptions. He also used his feet, gaining 372 yards on the ground and rushing for eight touchdowns.

The Oklahoma coaching staff was not through, however, filling out the quarterback room for the next few years. Four-star quarterback prospect Nick Evers had originally committed to Florida’s 2023 class. When Gators head coach Dan Mullen was fired after last season, Evers decommitted, and Lebby, who had recruited Evers while the former was at Ole Miss. made a bee line to go after the Flower Mound, Texas, prospect.

Lebby not only was successful in landing Evers for the Sooners’ 2023 class, but also got a bonus when highly touted wide-receiver Jayden Gibson, himself a Florida decommit, decided to join Evers at Oklahoma. Looking a little ahead, the Sooners also have a commitment from Jackson Arnold, a four-star prospect rated as the No. 6 quarterback and the No. 40 player overall in the 2024 class.

The 2022 Oklahoma quarterback room includes Micah Bowens, a transfer from Penn State, who came to OU after the 2021 season, and Ralph Rucker, a walk-on. Bowens has yet to play in a game at Oklahoma, while Rucker has appeared in one game, completing two passes for 20 yards.