OU football: Sooners QB Spencer Rattler ready for big stage but 'realizes he’s got to work'
NORMAN — Spencer Rattler has played just a handful of collegiate snaps, seeing mop-up duty in three games as a freshman last year.
But Rattler’s considerable hype coming out of high school, combined with Lincoln Riley’s success in developing quarterbacks during his five years with the Sooners have combined to make him one of the stars of college football already.
Rattler hasn’t even officially been named the starter yet — though he’s widely expected to beat out Tanner Mordecai for the job — but he’s already among the favorites for the Heisman Trophy and other honors.
Mike Giovando, who has worked with Rattler since the quarterback was in elementary school, says Rattler is prepared to carry the weight of those expectations.
“He’s getting these things put on him — these expectations,” Giovando said. “But instead of puffing his chest out, he realizes he’s got to work.
“He’s not out there acting like he’s already done something.”
Giovando saw Rattler for the first time when Rattler was in fifth or sixth grade after some youth coaches who knew Giovando coached quarterbacks urged him to check out the youngster who was playing well above his age in the Phoenix area.
“He was just better than everybody on the field,” Giovando said. “The way he carried himself, the way he played, the way he threw the football. He just needed to be challenged.”
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When he started working with Rattler, Giovando quickly had to move Rattler up to work with high school players instead of other junior-high players.
“And he was better than most of the high school, guys,” Giovando said. “You’ve got to be around guys that are doing it a little bit faster than he’s doing it.
It was the same way this spring and summer, when instead of being in Norman working with his Sooners teammates in spring football and offseason conditioning, Rattler was instead in Arizona working with Giovando thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The group of players working with Giovando included players like NFL running backs Ronald Jones and Jamal Williams. It was a diverse group of professional, college and high school players.
While Giovando saw a more polished quarterback than the one who left for Norman last summer, he still saw the saw drive to get better.
“He’s not satisfied (when something’s not perfect). If we’re doing a drill or working on a throw, whatever it is we’re working on and he doesn’t get it the way we want it, he’s instantly, ‘Give me the ball, I’m doing it again.’ He’s not waiting,” Giovando said.
“He’s not getting back in line and saying, ‘OK, I’m going to wait for the next four guys to go.’ He’s saying, ‘Give me the ball.’ Some guys have a bad rep and they just get back in line. Not Spencer.”
Rattler had a plan for improvement from Riley and the Sooners, but instead of being limited in practice time by NCAA mandates, Rattler could spend as much time as he wanted preparing his chance to be a collegiate starter and more.
“He got better,” Giovando said. “He came here and worked to the very end. He just loves it. Once we start going, it’s something he enjoys. He enjoys that process.”
Rattler has never just wanted to be a starter or be a good quarterback, Giovando said.
“I can go back and show you text messages from me and him telling him he was going to be the best quarterback in the history of Arizona, he was, break all the records, he did,” Giovando said. “You’re going to go be a Power 5 quarterback and he is. You’re going to win a Heisman Trophy.”
Rattler might not be Heisman-worthy quite yet — though it’s hard to write-off anything for Rattler given his accomplishments to this point or Riley given his track record with starting quarterbacks with the Sooners — but Giovando said he’s not far from it.
Giovando said he saw that in the way Rattler reacted to the hype that started trickling out following the end of last season.
“I haven’t done anything yet,” Rattler told Giovando. “But believe me, I’m going to do something.
“I appreciate what everybody’s saying about me. That’s just going to motivate me and keep me motivated to show everybody that i do deserve this and when I get my time on the field, they’ll see that they weren’t wrong about me.”