Lincoln Riley’s answer to the question was, as usual, measured, carefully considered.
But it was also revealing.
Did he expect to play Spencer Rattler on Saturday night during Oklahoma’s 52-31 takedown of TCU?
“Uh, I was absolutely ready to,” Riley said after the game. “Did I expect to? I don't know.”
Riley might have had Rattler ready to play a designated series — the first drive in the second quarter, for example, or the second drive of the third quarter — or a specific offensive package, like up-tempo or red zone.
Instead, Rattler didn’t play at all.
The transition to Caleb Williams is complete, and it was seamless.
That’s apparent from the game results — Williams was simply spectacular in completing 18-of-23 passes for 295 yards and four touchdowns and rushing for 66 yards and another score — and from the spark with which his teammates around him played.
Both the offense, and the defense.
“I think the biggest thing is Caleb is himself,” said senior defensive back Pat Fields. “I say that to say he's like the same guy that we recruited. The same guy that we expected. He's fiery. I didn't play with Baker, but I think he kinda has some traits of Baker Mayfield. I played with K1 (Kyler Murray) and I think he has some traits of K1 in terms of what we can do with the ball in his hands, how dynamic he is. I think he's a special player.
“I think the thing is, the way you guys see him jumping up on the sideline, he's like that every single day. He has that little kid joy for the game. I say that because it's so important, because a lot of guys they get tired of practicing. They get tired of the grind. But for him, he's just excited every single day. He's electric.”
To be fair, Riley expressed confidence that Rattler was ready to play and would have played well if he’d been called on.
“You just never know how games are gonna unfold,” Riley said, “but with the way he practiced this week, if the right moment — which could have been 100 different things — came up that, to put him in was going to happen, then I was completely confident. He had a fantastic week.”
Riley said he told Rattler and Williams his plans for the quarterback spot against TCU “midweek sometime.” It wasn’t that big a deal, Riley said — not from Williams, and certainly not outwardly. It was actually mundane.
“Yeah, I just told him that's how we're gonna start the game — and yeah, pretty mundane, honestly. You used the right word to describe it,” Riley said. “Not much to it and it felt, honestly, kind of like a normal week. Repped both those guys, gave Caleb a few more reps with the first group. But other than that, honestly felt like a normal week. I don't think he was a whole lot different and he didn't need to be. He just needed to go out and be ready to play and be ready to play well.”
Riley’s message to Williams was simple.
“You don't want guys trying to get out of who they are in these moments,” Riley said. “Don't try to change, just be confident in yourself and just go be yourself and go play football. It's really that simple. It's not easy, but it's that simple. You gotta block all of the things going on and just try to go play great ball and go enjoy it. I thought he did a good job of staying in the moment, being himself.”
Riley also downplayed the rumored drama of last week regarding Rattler supposedly getting angry, shouting, storming out, then coming back.
“All that junk that's been reported on the outside, you know, I did not see that from either one of these guys all week," Riley said. "They were both focused and ready to help the team, however they were called on. Caleb got the opportunity tonight, and obviously did a great job with it. I’m confident that had Spencer gotten the opportunity tonight with the way he practiced, he would’ve played very well also.
“I feel like the outside perceptions of what went on here this week, and then actually what went on here this week, could not be more opposite,” Riley said. “You just kinda laugh at it in our position. We're a team. We like playing the game together. We like coaching these players. I think they like being coached by us. We're just gonna keep trying to win. That's really it. Caleb handled the week good. Team handled the week good. Guys had a good week of practice, went out and won a big game tonight.”
Senior linebacker DaShaun White reiterated that his advice to the true freshman quarterback — OU’s first to start a game since Cale Gundy in 1990 — was not overly complicated.
“Just be you today. Just be you,” White said. “Because whoever you are in practice is who you should be in a game. I mean, honestly, that’s all he did. He’s just being himself. He does the same things at practice. So it’s one of those things where it might seem like a shock to some people, but he’s just being himself.”
Senior Mike Woods, the Sooners’ most experienced wide receiver who played with several quarterback during his time at Arkansas, said he was impressed with Williams — but also reiterated that Williams was just being himself.
“We already know he’s built for it,” Woods said. “Throughout the week, he handled it pretty well, in my opinion. We all know Caleb is talented and has a good mindset towards the game. He just came in and did what he always does.”