OU football and Heisman watch again a thing in 2024

Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

It hasn't always been this way, but since 2000 and the turn of the century -- and in particular the past decade -- Oklahoma football has deservedly earned to unofficial title as "Quarterback U" in college football.

Since the 2000 season, 20 quarterbacks have been awarded the Heisman Trophy, college football's most prestigious honor. Four of those quarterbacks (Jason White, Sam Bradford, Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray) played at Oklahoma, and two more (Josh Heupel and Jalen Hurts) were Heisman runners-up. You could also count 2022 Heisman winner Caleb Williams among that group. After all, he was recruited by and played his freshman year at Oklahoma.

All four 21st century OU Heisman winners were recruited by former Sooner head coach Bob Stoops, and former offensive coordinator and later head coach. Lincoln Riley, who has earned the reputation as a "quarterback whisperer" also had a major hand in it. No other school had more than two Heisman-winning quarterbacks since the 2000 season (USC, Florida State and LSU).

Dillon Gabriel, who was the starting quarterback for Oklahoma the past two seasons but transferred to Oregon after last season, is among the top-five 2024 quarterbacks who are on Heisman watch for the coming season. He was also a Heisman watch candidate the two seasons he was at OU.

Sophomore Jackson Arnold takes the quarterback reins for the Sooners as they begin play in the all-powerful SEC in the 2024 season. The former five-star recruit, No. 1 in the 2023 ESPN 300 and Gatorade National Player of the Year is showing up on several way-too-early 2024 Heisman odds lists, upholding the recent Oklahoma tradition of producing quality quarterbacks.

Texas quarterback Quinn Evers is the early favorite on most preseason Heisman lists along with Carson Beck of Georgia, Jalen Milroe of Alabama and Gabriel of Oregon. OU's Arnold is also getting some preseason attention on 2024 Heisman lists.

As an example, FanDuel, has handicapped Evers' chances of winning the Heisman next season at +750. Arnold is at +2200, with 13 Heisman hopeful QBs ranked ahead of him. Seven SEC quarterbacks are among those ranked ahead of Arnold.

John Hoover of FanNation's "All Sooners" website may have summed it up best when he wrote in a recent article: "Oddsmakers don't exactly favor Oklahoma quarterback Jackson Arnold for this year's Heisman Trophy, but they certainly aren't ignoring him."

This being Arnold's first full season as the starting quarterback at Oklahoma, as well as the Sooners' first in the SEC, Arnold probably won't generate the kind of numbers that generally are considered Heisman worthy. But, then again, neither were Sam Bradford's or Baker Mayfield's in their first full season at OU.

The expectations and ceiling for Arnold are high, and we'll get a good read on how valid those expectations are in the coming season. The supporting cast around the young OU quarterback will also have an important hand in how well and how soon Arnold rises to the challenge.