Oklahoma football: Could Jackson Arnold be second coming of Caleb Williams?

Oklahoma's Jackson Arnold (10) during a practice for the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) football team in Norman, Okla., Friday, Aug. 4, 2023.
Oklahoma's Jackson Arnold (10) during a practice for the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) football team in Norman, Okla., Friday, Aug. 4, 2023. /

We knew Jackson Arnold, the future quarterback of Oklahoma football, was really good coming out of high school.

The Denton, Texas, native was a five-star prospect, the No. 1 player in the 2023 class in the state of Texas and, to top it all off, the Gatorade National Player of the Year. The former high school All-American has yet to play an official down of college ball, and barring injury to Sooner starter Dillon Gabriel, Arnold probably won’t get his real turn at running the show until next season.

That doesn’t mean, however, that the freshman quarterback isn’t working hard to speed up that timeline. “He’s come in, and he’s picked everything up and he’s worked incredibly hard,” OU offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby told reporters during the first week of fall training camp.

“He’s spent a lot of time working on his own,” Lebby said. “He understands what it means to be the guy here and understands what it is going to take for him to get to that point.”

Arnold not only has impressed the coaches with his elite talent and work ethic, but his teammates have taken notice as well. Several players have gone as far to compare him with another elite quarterback talent who passed through Norman briefly on his way to Southern California and winning the Heisman Trophy.

“Man, he’s just an athlete,” said center Andrew Raym after practice one day this week. “He reminds me a little of Caleb (Williams) the way he runs, the way he can throw outside the pocket.” And Raym is someone who should know. In his three seasons at OU, the senior center has snapped to Spencer Rattler and Williams in 2021 and Gabriel in 2022.

Arnold did the smart thing by building a strong relationship with Gabriel immediately after arriving on the OU campus as an early enrollee right after the start of the year.

“It’s been huge,” Lebby said about the relationship between the two Sooner quarterbacks. “They’ve hit it off, and I knew they would from a personality standpoint. Dillon is an incredibly unselfish guy. He wants to be great himself, and he wants everyone around him to be great.

“Yeah, it looks like a great dynamic,” redshirt-freshman running back Gavin Sawchuk said during spring practice about the relationship between the two QBs. “Dillon’s a great leader. I know Jackson came in here as a talented guy, highly recruited. But I think it’s great for him to come in and spend time under Dillon.”

Arnold was 28-3 as a blue-chip high school quarterback, passing for more than 7,000 yards and 67 touchdowns with just eight interceptions.

Arnold has all the tools to be a great college quarterback. He just needs the time to adjust to the new environment, a new system, a new playbook and the speed of the college game. It’s a lot to adsorb and learn in a short period of time. Once he gets comfortable with all that, watch out.

Arnold’s teammates are witnessing more than just athletic ability and a big arm with accuracy. There seeing somebody with a high football IQ and a great mind for the game, plus the leadership ability you must have to be a great quarterback.

“Once he gets settled down and understands the offense,” says Raym, “he’s going to be a really good player.”

Who knows, we could be witnessing the growth and development of the next Oklahoma Heisman-winning quarterback.