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Spencer Rattler's Best Days Can Still be Ahead of Him

Rattler's future at Oklahoma is up in the air, but Saturday could still just be a blip in a very bright career.

Things have not gone according to plan for Spencer Rattler.

Lincoln Riley’s handpicked quarterback, Rattler was supposed to come in and take the Sooners to new heights.

But instead, a once in a century pandemic, an underperforming offensive line and the arrival of another incredibly talented quarterback have derailed Rattler’s path.

A pair of turnovers once again reared their ugly head for Rattler in a first half in the Cotton Bowl on Saturday, but this year, Caleb Williams ran with his opportunity instead of merely stabilizing the game like Tanner Mordecai did a year ago.

Smart money is on the Sooners rolling with that quarterback change for the rest of the season, putting Rattler in a precarious position.

Sure, two high-profile quarterbacks have been supplanted in recent college football history, but the situation is a bit different in Norman.

Oklahoma struggled to protect Spencer Rattler again on Saturday. Texas sent plenty of pressure, sacking Rattler twice in the first quarter.

Oklahoma struggled to protect Spencer Rattler again on Saturday. Texas sent plenty of pressure, sacking Rattler twice in the first quarter.

Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant was only completing 66.7 percent of his passes for the Tigers in 2018 before Trevor Lawrence was handed the keys to the offense.

The year prior, Jalen Hurts played the entire year for Alabama before getting replaced in the National Championship game, but he had quite literally run the Crimson Tide offense into the title game.

Hurts only completed 60.4 percent of his passes in 2017, averaging 13.5 yards per completion behind a much better offensive line.

So far in 2021, Rattler has completed 74.3 percent of his passes, operating an offense that has been far from perfect. Oklahoma entered the Cotton Bowl ranked No. 6 in the country and unbeaten, and Rattler was again dealt an awful hand.

It wasn’t his fault that the Oklahoma defense allowed Xavier Worthy to pop off a 75-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the game from scrimmage. It also wasn’t on Rattler when the Sooners had a punt blocked to set Texas up on the 2-yard line with a chance to go up 14-0.

In fact, Rattler displayed a ton of poise and guts to lead the OU offense right back down the field, answering with a 2-yard touchdown run of his own to cut the lead back to one score.

Then, deja vu struck.

An interception and a fumble saw Riley turn to the backup quarterback, and Williams provided a spark which OU now can’t turn away from.

For the second straight year, Rattler surrendered a first half fumble and threw a first half interception against Texas

For the second straight year, Rattler surrendered a first half fumble and threw a first half interception against Texas

But nothing is that simple.

On what Riley coined as the most important play of the game, the Sooner head coach turned back to Rattler to run the two-point conversion OU needed to tie the game.

Cool as you like, Rattler rolled out to his right, found Drake Stoops and tied the football game.

“The trust I had to put Spencer in, back in in the most important play of the game,” Riley said after the game. “The guts he had to do to go in there and perform for his team… That's him. And that's why he was ready to go execute the most important part of the game.”

So now what for Rattler?

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Regardless of what the future holds, Rattler is stuck at Oklahoma for the rest of this season.

If Oklahoma does indeed roll with Williams, the next couple of weeks could shape the next few years of Rattler’s young career.

The transfer portal is always an option, but Rattler could still have a major role to play for Oklahoma this season.

The offensive line hasn’t changed. That group still missed a few assignments and Texas was still able to put some pressure on Williams in the second half, making him create on the fly.

Pair that with Williams’ running style, and the risk exposure is higher that Williams will take a wrong hit.

Back at Alabama, Hurts had a role to play in 2018. Georgia knocked Tua Tagovailoa out of the game, and the former starter played hero to win the SEC Championship game and punch Alabama’s ticket back to the College Football Playoff.

And because of that experience, Rattler has an ace in the hole.

Rattler was once the No. 1 player in the nation sitting behind an established starter. Rattler sat behind the very same Hurts who went through the ringer at Alabama.

If either of those guys pick up the phone, surely Hurts has some fantastic, first-hand advice for Rattler.

Hurts was a good teammate, and continued to work at Alabama. He got his heroic moment in the SEC Championship game, and then was rewarded by getting to transfer to Oklahoma where he would be surrounded by a wealth of talent.

Jalen Hurts' second chance came in Norman, and now he's starting in the NFL for the Philadelphia Eagles

Jalen Hurts' second chance came in Norman, and now he's starting in the NFL for the Philadelphia Eagles

Should Rattler opt to return to college football in 2022 instead of entering his name into the NFL Draft pool, teams across the country would line up to have a chance to let him lead their offense.

If he plays up to his potential in a different system next year, NFL general managers will likely fall in love with his grit and his ability to handle adversity, just as they did with Hurts.

The 2021 edition of OU-Texas will be a road bump in Rattler’s road to greatness, not a nail in the coffin.

The Oklahoma quarterback could still have all of his goals in front of him, it just might take a little bit different route than he had originally planned.

For Riley’s money, he said he still has full faith in both Williams and Rattler, but it’ll be on both of them to handle to situation correctly if the Sooners are to rally and change the direction of their season.

“They've got to both play better. They will,” Riley said in the aftermath at the Cotton Bowl. “But again… I'm proud of their insides. I'm proud of their guts, their commitment to this team.

“Despite whatever people are going to write on the outside, man, those are two dudes who just want to win and they want to win till the final whistle, and we needed them both to do it.”


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