For the first time since 2015, the Sooners will have a true quarterback battle. When Spencer Rattler or Tanner Mordecai takes the field for the start of the 2020 season, it will mark the first time the Sooners have started a homegrown talent at QB since the Trevor Knight era. With the loss of Jalen Hurts, Ceedee Lamb, and Kenneth Murray, among others, the Sooners have their work cut for them as they enter a new era. Which of these quarterbacks will lead the charge?
If you’re a college football fan, then you’re well aware of OU’s reputation with transfer quarterbacks. Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray, and Jalen Hurts led the Sooners to five consecutive Big 12 championships and four playoff appearances over the last few years, shattering multiple records in the process. Mayfield and Murray snatched up the Heisman in their respective careers and went on to become #1 draft picks in the NFL. As it stands, Hurts is projected as a second-to-third round pick.
With head coach Lincoln Riley’s reputation as an offensive genius and quarterback guru, many fans question if he can recruit and groom a quarterback of his own. While I’d argue that he can, we’ll just have to see. And he’ll have a chance to silence those doubters this year.
In the blowout loss to LSU in the semi-finals, Riley shocked many as he put in true freshman quarterback Rattler late in the 4th quarter over the more experienced Mordecai. While Rattler was one of the most highly touted recruits in school history, Mordecai had been the primary backup all season.
Similar to many coaches, Riley likes to keep quarterback competitions close to his vest. Riley prefers to let battles play out during the entire offseason before naming a starter. Considering the fact that both Rattler and Mordecai are unproven and inexperienced as starters, I’d be surprised if this battle doesn’t play out the same way.
After what happened against LSU, many Sooner fans believe that it’s a foregone conclusion that Rattler will simply be given the starting job. With his upside and long-term potential, Rattler looks to be the natural choice with whom Oklahoma football should bring in the new era. But not all quarterback battles are that simple.
We’ve seen what happens when a coach gives the reins to a young player with loads of potential before that player is fully ready. Does Rhett Bomar ring a bell, Sooner fans? Mordecai has been in the system since 2018 and deserves his chance to show what he can do. The outcome of this battle will be worth the wait.
Tanner Mordecai: The Veteran
I got a chance to speak with Mordecai last summer during Oklahoma’s football media day. When I asked Mordecai about the quarterback battle, he expressed confidence in his abilities and embraced the challenge of being QB #1, saying this:
“Like I said, I believe in myself. I believe in what I can do. My goal is to be the guy. My goal is to win the starting job. Absolutely.”
Without any transfer quarterbacks suiting up for the Sooners this fall, Mordecai finally has a chance to prove that he’s the guy who can lead the Sooners this year. Since he arrived on campus in 2018, Mordecai has made the most out of his situation. He was named one of the offensive scout team players of the year in 2018. Last season, in addition to playing well in spot duty, he was also named to the Academic All-Big 12 Football Team’s First Team.
After learning under Kyler Murray and Jalen Hurts, Mordecai can’t be overlooked in this QB battle. Riley and his staff need to be diligent in evaluating this battle from every angle.
Spencer Rattler: Quarterback of the Future
Sooner fans around the country rejoiced when Riley managed to land top quarterback prospect Spencer Rattler in the summer of 2017. A 5-star recruit out of Pinnacle High School in Phoenix, Arizona, Rattler went on to become Arizona’s all-time leading passer. Rattler threw for 11,083 yards and 116 touchdowns during his career.
When it comes to his time at OU, Rattler saw action in three games this past season, completing 7 of 11 passes for 81 yards and a touchdown. After his appearance against LSU, many speculate that Rattler, on the other hand, should be the man to usher in the next decade of Sooner football.
“Of course, this loss is tough on all of us, and that’s what we’re thinking right now. A lot of the young guys in my class, we’ve learned a lot from these seniors. We hope to continue that legacy and get better throughout the years.”
With receivers Theo Wease, Jadon Haselwood, and Charleston Rambo, the Sooners have a promising young core. Just like Rattler, Haselwood was the top wide receiver recruit in his class. It’s hard on any coach to pass up a chance to develop a dynamic duo like that. Starting Rattler will allow him to get comfortable in the system and build chemistry with other players.
Rattler’s development will go a long way in determining the success of the team over the next few years. Whether or not Lincoln Riley is ready to pull the trigger on the young player versus the veteran remains to be seen.
Sooners Season Outlook
Regardless of who wins this quarterback battle, rest assured that they will have plenty of weapons at their disposal. Wease, Haselwood, and Rambo lead the receiving core. Kennedy Brooks and Rhamondre Stevenson return at running back. Last but not least, All-American center Creed Humphrey leads an experienced offensive line.
While Riley has hinted that he’s not opposed to naming a starter early, he has no plans to rush his decision.
“I just think you have to let these things play out. I know everybody wants to come to a conclusion. Everybody wants to know what it’s going to be.”
This time, we don’t have to call Riley’s bluff. This truly is the time to let things play out the way they should. Two guys battling it out day after day, and every aspect of their performance is being scrutinized. From meetings to film sessions and everything in between. On and off the field interactions with coaches, teammates, and media alike.
The lines have been drawn in the battle of Spencer Rattler and Tanner Mordecai.
Who will be the guy? The young gun or the grizzled vet?
We’ll have to wait to see.
An avid sports fan and aspiring journalist who’s just trying to make it in the world. Louisiana born but Oklahoma made. Proud Alumni of Langston University.