OU football: Spencer Rattler says 'pressure is a privilege' following Jalen Hurts, Kyler Murray and Baker Mayfield as Sooners' QB
NORMAN — Spencer Rattler got thrown into the fire.
In the summer before his freshman year in high school, Rattler didn’t figure to be a varsity starter for Phoenix’s Pinnacle High.
The Pioneers’ starter from the previous year was returning and while Rattler was already making a name for himself, he seemed a year away from taking over the spot.
But the incumbent quit for personal reasons just weeks before the season opener.
Entering his first collegiate start Saturday, for OU against Missouri State at home (6 p.m., pay-per-view), Rattler can look back at the lessons learned, even if it was difficult.
Pinnacle opened that season against Chandler, a state powerhouse that featured multiple players who are in the NFL now.
His team lost 56-10 and Rattler threw three interceptions.
“We got stomped on,” Rattler said Tuesday. “Right now, I’m definitely more prepared, more mature, more grown that I was obviously back then. And just knowing the system fully and being closer with my teammates and everything, that’s probably the biggest difference.”
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In Norman, Rattler has spent a season mostly on the bench, learning from Lincoln Riley’s teaching and Jalen Hurts’ example.
And instead of facing a powerhouse program, Rattler gets a softer opening against a team that went 1-10 at the Football Championship Subdivision level a year ago and is putting in new schemes under new Bears coach Bobby Petrino with much less practice time to do it.
But Rattler’s focus — and the focus of those inside the program as well as fans on the outside — goes way beyond Saturday’s game.
He’s the most hyped Sooners quarterback recruit since Rhett Bomar and is already near the top of many oddsmakers boards for Heisman Trophy favorites. That’s what happens when you’re a consensus top quarterback in a class and follow the most successful string of quarterbacks in not only Sooners history but probably in college football history.
While Jalen Hurts said he didn’t pay attention to external expectations and often deflected reflection on his personal accomplishments by talking about “keeping the main thing the main thing,” Rattler openly embraces the expectations that come with the entirety of his journey.
“That definitely prepared me for this,” Rattler said of the hype that has surrounded him since around the time he threw for 788 yards and nine touchdowns and no interceptions during the next three games after that blowout to begin his high school career. “To me, pressure is a privilege.”
While the Sooners have had new starting quarterbacks in three consecutive years, OU coach Lincoln Riley might have to monitor Rattler early in the game a bit more than Hurts and Kyler Murray the last two years.
Hurts had spent two seasons as Alabama’s starter and another as a backup, bringing an unflappable personality when he arrived in Norman as a graduate transfer. Murray had hype similar to Rattler out of high school and had started some as a true freshman at Texas A&M — and had started a game in Baker Mayfield’s place in 2017 when Mayfield had to miss the opening drive against West Virginia for disciplinary reasons.
“Each guy’s different,” Riley said. “Their personalities are different. Some guys you’ve gotta settle them down a little bit. I remember having to settle down Baker and probably myself a little bit against Akron the first year.
“I think it comes down to knowing their personalities, settling into a routine and eventually, that’s what guys came here to do.
“They came here to go play and here’s your chance.”
Rattler’s chance is almost here.