2024 Oklahoma Sooners Quarterbacks Preview - Jackson Arnold

Throughout July Stormin' in Norman is providing an in-depth analysis of the different position groups for the 2024 Oklahoma Sooners football roster. This week we're taking an in depth look at the gunslingers. First up, Denton Texas' finest Jackson Arnold.
TCU v Oklahoma. Jackson Arnold
TCU v Oklahoma. Jackson Arnold / Brian Bahr/GettyImages

Talk about pressure. Being the starting quarterback at the University of Oklahoma is one of the few titles in the world of sports that holds such a traditional title. The legacy of quarterbacks in Norman is unmatched in college football. Jason White (Heisman), Sam Bradford (Heisman & 1st overall pick in the NFL Draft), Baker Mayfield (Heisman & 1st overall pick in the NFL Draft), Kyler Murray (Heisman & 1st overall pick in the NFL Draft), Jalen Hurst (Heisman runner-up, Super Bowl QB), Caleb Williams (Heisman & 1st overall pick in the NFL Draft at USC), Dillon Gabriel (2024 Heisman front runner now at Oregon) - all were Sooner signal callers. This list doesn't mention other guys like the University's leading career passer, Landry Jones (16,646 yards), and Spencer Rattler (5-star recruit). Needless to say, being the starting quarterback for the Sooners comes with unbelievable expectations. Luckily, Jackson Arnold has the potential to add his name to this extensive list of legendary quarterbacks.

2023 Summary

Arnold came to Norman after completing one of the greatest careers in Texas highschool football history at Denton Guyer where he was ranked as a 5-star plus quarterback and the second overall ranked player in Texas.

During his freshman season, Arnold served in a backup role to QB Dillon Gabriel. Arnold saw action in 5 games where he completed 44 of 69 passes (63.8%) for 563 yards and 4 touchdowns. Arnold also threw 3 interceptions and had an overall quarterback rating of 142.7. His two most impactful appearances came in a road game against BYU in Provo and a bowl start against Arizona. Arnold came in against BYU following a Gabriel injury and managed the Sooners offense efficiently, going 5 for 9 with 33 yards and carried the ball 8 times for 24 yards. The Sooners ended up pulling out a massive road victory against the Cougars 31-24. Arnold got his first start against Arizona in the Valero Alamo Bowl and he went 26 of 45 (57.8%) for 361 yards and 2 touchdowns. Unfortunately Arnold also threw 3 interceptions and took 3 sacks. There were brightspots for Arnold in the bowl game. He was able to showcase his quick release and untouted arm strength against the Wildcats. He also gave us a glimpse of his athleticism running the ball 11 times for 38 yards including a 20 yard scamper.

2024 Outlook

Arnold's talent is unquestioned and his arm strength is well-known. The two things he needs to lead the Sooners to a playoff birth is his decision-making and a go to receiver. The decision-making will take some time. Before he sees his first SEC start he will get to develop his mental game during the Summer, during Fall camp, and in games against Temple, Houston, and Tulane... all in Norman. Each of those first three starts will come against teams that will provide an increased difficulty level and decent competition. In 2023 Temple ranked 129th of 133 teams in defensive points per game (35.7), Houston ranked 108th of 133 (31.5) and Tulane ranked 24th of 133 (20.5). Arnold should get his first SEC start against Tennessee who ranked 23rd of 133 (20.3), which will also be in Norman. So, his decision-making difficulty will progressively develop against tougher and tougher defenses before he goes on the road against Auburn in week 5.

The go to receiver options should be plentiful. Returning veterans fill the Sooner's starting receiver lineup. Nic Anderson, Jalil Farooq, and Purdue transfer Deion Burks are the projected starters in the wide receiver room, all of whom could prove to be Arnold's go to receiver. Combined, the wide receiver corps provides massive potential to be one of the nation's elite position groups. Backups Andrel Anthony, Brenen Thompson, Jayden Gibson, and Jaquaize Pettaway would all be starters in just about every other program across the country. Gibson serves as a tight end of sorts in the redzone with his 6'5'' build and his crazy "Moss-like" jumpball abilities.

One dynamic that will challenge Arnold is the transition he will make to leading a Seth Littrell offense. Littrell is known to run a "Mike Leach-style" air raid offense, which should suite Arnold well. It is hard to see Arnold not being a success in a Seth Littrell, pass heavy, deep ball offense. Combine his playcalling with Arnold's talent, and the receiver depth/talent and I can't see Arnold not putting up massive numbers. However, he has to understand when to take sacks and throw the ball away instead of forcing throws or taking unnecessary chances like he did against Arizona.

Okay, so the positives are obvious. Arm talent, athleticism, crazy receiver potential, air raid play calling, and a progressive start to the season against decent competition before the gauntlet gets here. What about the negatives? Well, the offensive line is brand new, there is no great option at tight end, and the SEC is coming. There's a huge difference between Arizona's defense and Auburn's at Jordan Hare. However, I believe Bedenbaugh will shore up the O-Line, tight ends aren't a major focus of the air raid, and Arnold is as primed a candidate to lead a transition to the SEC as any program can ask for.

Overall, I am encouraged and confident Arnold will have a top-5 QB season in the SEC this year. Georiga QB Carson Beck, Texas QB Quinn Ewers, Ole Miss QB Jaxson Dart, and Alabama QB Jalen Milroe are the conference's clear top-4 signal callers. Either Arnold or Tennessee QB Nico Iamaleava will be the 5th best QB at the end of the year. It is unrealistic to think Arnold is Caleb Williams because that type of talent is generational which is what makes it so special. Sooner fans are spoiled when it comes to quarterbacks and we can't think every one of them is Kyler. However, the expectations are realistically high for Jackson Arnold because he has shown that he is one of the country's highest potential future quarterbacks. He just needs a little more experience, a refined decision-making process, and his receivers to cash in on their potential. If that happens, which isn't unrealistic at all, I see Arnold leading the Sooner's offense to a birth in the College Football Playoff.