Tramel: The Spencer Rattler era for OU football arrives on Owen Field with plenty of hype
NORMAN — Spencer Rattler’s starting debut Saturday night on Owen Field arrives with much hype.
Think Beatles 1964.
Think Heatles 2010.
Think Pete-les 1968. OK, a Maravich pun goes too far. But that’s the thing about hype. It goes too far.
If you believe the hype, Rattler is tougher than Jalen Hurts, faster than Kyler Murray, savvier than Baker Mayfield, more durable than Landry Jones and more accurate than Sam Bradford.
Of course, if you believe the hype, Rattler is a one-year place-holder as the Sooner quarterback, since the next big thing, Caleb Williams, is Oklahoma-bound.
But expectations soar for Rattler, whose Sooner passes number 11, all in mop-up duty against South Dakota, Texas Tech or LSU. I mean, Rattler has the second-best odds on most Las Vegas Heisman bets, and so far he hasn’t even beaten Missouri State.
That should change Saturday night; the beleaguered Bears, 1-10 a year ago in the Missouri Valley Conference, might be OU’s most overmatched opponent since Bennie Owen days. The hype will only heighten.
To his credit, Rattler said “pressure is a privilege” and he won’t run from the runaway hopes of Sooner Nation.
“I look to embrace it,” Rattler said. “Being the player I am, I try to just let my play do the talking. Of course you’re going to see this and that. But ready to attack the season.”
Even the name of Rattler’s Phoenix high school, Pinnacle, screams top-of-the-mountain. He was the nation’s top-rated quarterback in the 2019 class, and with Lincoln Riley’s track record with a Texas Tech walk-on and an Alabama backup, why wouldn’t OU’s Heisman Park get even more crowded?
“You coach the guys that you have, and every player is going to have different strengths, weaknesses, experience levels,” Riley said of switching from a veteran to a yearling at the most important position in sport. “We were always gonna try to attack areas that we think that they need to improve on the most.”
So Riley knows that Rattler is not a finished product and might not be Heisman-caliber right out of the gate.
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And remember, when it comes to OU quarterback hype, Rattler is a Boomer, not a Sooner. He didn’t get there first.
Plenty of quarterbacks have hit Norman over the decades with blue-chip or five-star or can’t-miss labels.
I don’t know how to judge these things, but I’d say the most-hyped OU quarterback recruits of my lifetime were Jack Mildren (1968), Scott Hill (1972), Eric Mitchel (1985), Brent Rawls (2001) and Rhett Bomar (2004).
Mildren was such a phenom, Sports Illustrated wrote a 5,728-word story about his 1968 recruitment out of Abilene, Texas. That won’t mean much to the TikTok crowd, but rest assured, half a century ago, SI was a big deal. And Mildren indeed became one of the greatest Sooners ever.
Hill was the No. 1 player in Texas in 1972 and indeed became an excellent Sooner. As a safety.
Mitchel seemed the wishbone future in ‘85. He also was in the same class with Jamelle Holieway, who quarterbacked OU to the national championship as a freshman, and Mitchel became a halfback.
Rawls looked great in a spring game but never played a down in autumn. He famously fell out of the back of a pickup and transferred to Louisiana Tech while Jason White went about the business of winning a Heisman.
Bomar was considered the total package. Mike Gundy called Bomar the greatest high school quarterback he had ever seen. Bomar played reasonably well as a redshirt freshman starter, got sideways with NCAA violations and was booted from the team.
So you never know. Blue-chip and five-star are fun stamps, but hype ends when the games start. Rattler’s honeymoon ends Saturday.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at oklahoman.com/berrytramel.