Oklahoma football: ESPN’s QB position future power rankings has OU back in top three

Dec 29, 2022; Orlando, Florida, USA; Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Dillon Gabriel (8) runs with the ball against the Florida State Seminoles in the first quarter during the 2022 Cheez-It Bowl at Camping World Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 29, 2022; Orlando, Florida, USA; Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Dillon Gabriel (8) runs with the ball against the Florida State Seminoles in the first quarter during the 2022 Cheez-It Bowl at Camping World Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports /
facebooktwitterreddit

The Oklahoma football program has been a haven for top quarterback play for a good part of this century. Four Heisman winning quarterbacks and two Heisman runners-up will do that for you.

But when Lincoln Riley jumped ship after the 2021 season and two former No. 1 quarterback recruits followed him out the door leaving the Sooner QB room virtually empty and devoid of experience.

The Sooners and new head coach Brent Venables were extremely fortunate to lure UCF transfer Dillon Gabriel to transfer to Norman. Gabriel, who had started 27 games at UCF before injuring his was litterally within hours of enrolling at UCLA when OU offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby persuaded him to call an audible and do a 180-degree reversal of his transfer plan.

Every season in recent years, ESPN publishes a future power ranking at every position, listing the top-25 teams that are in the best shape for top performance at each position group over the next three years.

In 2021, for example, Oklahoma was ranked No. 1 at QB in the future power rankings. Heading into the 2021 season the Sooners had Spencer Rattler returning as the starter and No. 1 quarterback recruit Caleb Williams joining him as the backup. Rattler was a redshirt sophomore in 2021 and Williams a true freshman, so the Sooners were expected to be in great position at quarterback looking three years out (2021-2023).

Oklahoma football fans well remember what happened that season, with Williams replacing Rattler as the starter midway through the season and Rattler leaving to go to South Carolina and Williams following Riley to USC, leaving the Oklahoma quarterback cupboard bare.

As a result, the Sooners dropped down to No. 7 in ESPN’s future power rankings for the QB position in 2022, and even that might have been generous not knowing how well Gabriel would perform at OU.

Oklahoma, which in the seven seasons Riley was at OU as offensive coordinator and later as head coach, became known as Quarterback-U, returned to top three in ESPN’s 2023 future power ranking for the quarterback position.

Here is an excerpt of what ESPN college football writer Adam Rittenberg had to say about the Oklahoma quarterback future in an ESPN+ article published today:

"“The start of the Brent Venables era in Norman didn’t go well. but (Dillon) Gabriel wasn’t the problem. He passed for 3,168 yards with 25 touchdowns and six interceptions, while adding 315 rushing yards and six scores.“…Oklahoma seemingly is well positioned for whenever Gabriel departs after signing Jackson Arnold, ESPN’s top dual-threat quarterback and No. 3 overall player in the 2023 class.”"

Looking out yet another year, the Sooners are also the favorite of several national recruiting services to land heavily recruited four-star quarterback Michael Hawkins as part of the 2024 class. Hawkins is schedule to make his commitment announcement on April 8.