Oklahoma football spotlight: QB Dillon Gabriel

Apr 23, 2022; Norman, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Dillon Gabriel (8) in action during the spring game at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 23, 2022; Norman, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Dillon Gabriel (8) in action during the spring game at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports /

Oklahoma football will have a new look this fall. We don’t want to spoil anyone’s preconceived expectations, but the Sooners are probably going to be a better, more complete team because of it.

Oklahoma has one of the strongest and best brands in college football, and while some on the outside see things in Norman as doom and gloom following Lincoln Riley’s exit, Oklahoma landing QB Dillon Gabriel is direct evidence that not everything is lost.

Oklahoma has shown resilience no matter what players may end up leaving the program. There are several suitors who are chomping at the bit to get starting positions. Gabriel, who left UCF and originally committed to UCLA, immediately flipped to the Sooners and reunited with his former offensive coordinator, Jeff Lebby, when Sooner freshman sensation Caleb Williams entered the transfer portal.

Gabriel is an experienced college quarterback and one of the best in the country. While he may not be as talented as Spencer Rattler or Williams, the Sooners could be a whole lot worse off, and Dillon is a proven producer and winner at the college level.

During his time at UCF, he threw for 70 touchdowns and just 14 interceptions, including a 32 touchdown, four interception year in 2020.  Gabriel has a stronger arm than you would think with his stature and has improved every season in college. In fact, he will likely provide better play due to his experience than Williams was able to provide in the fall of 2021 as he tried to learn how to deal with different coverages.

Gabriel can make big-time plays like the best of them in this Oklahoma offense:

"Gabriel put together a solid half of football during the Red-White spring game, playing quarterback for both sides. He had a nice toss downfield to Theo Wease and found his rhythm throwing in the middle of the field.  His teammates and coaches have raved about his leadership.Brent Venables had this to say:“He’s a leader. He’s a worker. He’s very ambitious. He’s self-driven, very humble, incredibly confident. You know, great self-awareness, understands where he needs to get better.” Venables continued: “But guys follow him, you know, the best of the best, make others around them better. And he’s intentionally done that through relationships and through work.”"

The most important step for both Gabriel and Sooner fans is to understand that Gabriel is his own man and QB. It can be overwhelming to be the starting quarterback at the University of Oklahoma, and the pressure is intense.

Spencer Rattler can attest to that as he was even booed in the Palace on the Prairie last year in one of the more embarrassing moments for the second-year Sooner quarterback against West Virginia.

The Sooners will look different on offense as well. Different doesn’t mean worse, though. It just means the style is a big change. Oklahoma will be running a fast tempo offense, you will see a lot of numbers abuse in the RPO game, as well as power inside rushing attack that are staples of the shoot and veer offense. Gabriel has shown flashes of NFL level arm talent as well like he did on this massive big time touchdown into a tiny window against Stanford.

Gabriel has solid athleticism as well and has eight rushing touchdowns in his career. He has demonstrated the ability to escape the pocket and make solid throws on the run, like this memorable play in his collegiate debut.

At the end of the day, Dillon Gabriel has been ranked as high as the 4th best QB in the country by certain analysts. He is clearly a top-10 guy and should be the preseason favorite to be First-Team All Big 12. Gabriel is more than good enough, and plenty experienced enough to lead Oklahoma all the way back to the College Football Playoff.  Expect this to be a career year for the new Sooners’ signal caller, as he has never before had the array of weaponry available to him at Oklahoma.