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Oklahoma 2021 Report Card: Quarterbacks

A tale of two seasons unfolded in Norman, as a quarterback controversy changed Oklahoma's season.

Oklahoma’s quarterback room delivered both disappointment and great promise in 2021.

The dust had barely settled on OU’s Cotton Bowl win over Florida to end 2020 before Spencer Rattler was anointed the preseason Heisman Trophy favorite.

Unfortunately for Rattler, his Heisman campaign never got off the ground.

Lincoln Riley’s offense began to sputter in the second half of the season opener against Tulane, only scoring a field goal over the final 30 minutes as the Green Wave stormed back and the Sooners held on for dear life.

Spencer Rattler

Spencer Rattler

OU breezed past FCS foes Western Carolina, but that was the last time anything came easy for the Sooner offense with Rattler at the helm.

The big play was completely non-existent, and both the Nebraska Cornhuskers and West Virginia Mountaineers mucked up the game and contained the OU attack.

As the offense struggled to get results on the field, the Oklahoma fanbase grew restless. Tensions boiled over against the Mountaineers, as the OU student section chanted for Rattler’s understudy, true freshman Caleb Williams.

Rattler and the offense survived the Mountaineers and passed their road test against the Kansas State Wildcats, but then lightning struck twice in the Cotton Bowl.

One year after getting benched for turning the ball over twice against the Longhorns, Rattler turnovers again sent him to the bench.

2021 OU Report Cards

But this time he wasn’t replaced by Tanner Mordecai. Williams, the top-ranked player in the 2021 recruiting class, was waiting in the wings, and waiting for his Tom Brady moment.

“When I finally started,” said Williams after the Alamo Bowl, “you can go ask Justin Broiles, in the summer, I told him if and when I get the chance, I will not give it back.

“I always like looked to that Tom Brady thing with Drew Bledsoe, and I just kept referring to that in my mind just going back and watching it, things like that, just not giving the spot back.”

Down 28-7 to the Longhorns at one point, Williams injected energy straight back into the OU sideline, leading a heroic comeback to top Texas 55-48.

Caleb Williams

Caleb Williams

Williams threw for 212 yards and two touchdowns in the Cotton Bowl, including bringing back the big play with a pair of deep balls to Marvin Mims. The true freshman also added 88 yards and another score on the ground, and it appeared the OU offensive machine was finally back up and running.

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Rattler finished the year averaging just 7.9 yards per completion, a far cry from the explosive passing attacks of his three predecessors at OU under Riley.

Over the next three games, the Williams-led OU offense averaged 46.3 points per game, and talking heads around college football began to whisper that perhaps Williams’ hat should be thrown into the Heisman Trophy race despite him beginning the first half of the season on the OU sideline.

After the bye week, the Sooner offense came crashing back down to earth, dousing any hopes of an unplanned trip to New York City for Williams.

Dave Aranda’s Baylor defense dominated the Sooner offensive line and appeared to confuse Williams, as Riley’s offense was held to 14 points, the lowest point of the Riley era in Norman.

The going got so tough in Waco that Riley actually turned back to Rattler seeking a spark, but Rattler was unable to get anything going.

Williams did enough to lead the Sooners past a Jon Heacock-led Iowa State defense that has always given Riley fits, but then OU stalled in the second half in Stillwater.

After scoring 24 first-half points on the best defense they faced all year, Riley was unable to dial up any second-half adjustments, and the Sooners had to rely solely on their defense and special teams for any points after halftime against Oklahoma State.

Caleb Williams, Oklahoma State Cowboys

Caleb Williams

A day after the Bedlam loss, Riley was gone. Soon, Rattler was off to South Carolina via the transfer portal.

Led by interim head coach Bob Stoops, interim offensive coordinator Cale Gundy and interim quarterbacks coach Ty Darlington, OU and Williams rebounded nicely against Oregon in the Alamo Bowl, ushering in plenty of good feelings for what the offense could have been in 2022.

In all, Williams completed 64.5 percent of his passes, throwing for 1,912 yards and 24 touchdowns while only tossing four interceptions after he took over for Rattler. A dynamic dual threat, Williams also carried the ball 79 times for 442 yards and six touchdowns.

Despite new Sooner head coach Brent Venables’ post-bowl declaration that Williams would lead the OU offense in 2022, it appears the talismanic quarterback will be taking his talents elsewhere via the transfer portal.

But it doesn’t erase what was an incredibly promising season from the Washington, DC, native.

Grading the Quarterbacks

  • Hoover: B-
  • Chapman: B-
  • Callaway: B+

Quarterbacks GPA: 2.889 (B on a 4.0 scale)

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