Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler said back in December that it would mean everything to him to be named the starting quarterback.
That everything moment happened last week when head coach Lincoln Riley officially announced the former five-star quarterback was going to get his chance Saturday in the season opener against Missouri State.
Riley had to make it officially official, but the majority of OU fans have been preparing for this moment for a long time. He’s not just another redshirt freshman.
Not when you’re offered by Riley in the spring of your freshman season. The expectations are just different for Rattler.
He gets it. He knows it. He embraces it.
“I look at it like I had a lot of hype, you could say, in high school and attention,” said Rattler in a Zoom call Tuesday afternoon “That definitely prepared me for this. Like I said, to me pressure is a privilege. I look at it to embrace it.
“I’m not going to run away from any expectations or this and that. I just focus on what I have to do with my team. I’ve got a great group of guys around me and a great supporting cast of coaches. What we’re focusing on right now is that Game 1 and we’ll go on from there.”
The hype train won’t slow down, either. Without even starting a game, Rattler has been tabbed as one of the early favorites for the Heisman Trophy.
There’s a lot that goes into that. Riley’s track record with quarterbacks in Norman is practically impeccable. Baker Mayfield – Heisman. Kyler Murray – Heisman. Jalen Hurts – Heisman runner-up. So when Riley puts his faith in somebody, it resonates.
It probably wouldn’t have resonated as much, though, if Rattler wasn’t the next man up. Able to bide his time last year and learn from Hurts, it’s his skills on the field combined with a growing maturity off of it that has OU fans giddy for what’s to come.
“You know, just being the player I am, I try to just let my play be the talking,” Rattler said. “You know, of course, you’re gonna see this and that, but that’s the last thing (Heisman hype) I’m worried about. I’m worried about just working with my team right now. We’ve got a great group of guys ready to attack to the season, and that’s my main focus right now.”
Maybe a year on the sidelines is what Rattler needed. He played in three games and threw his first career touchdown, but 2019 was about absorbing the learning curve.
Hurts was there to show him how to prepare for each practice, each game. Rattler said he took bits and pieces of what Hurts brought to the table and added it to his own energy. Put it all together, and he’s excited to see the results, beginning with what happens against the Bears.
“We just need him to go be himself,” Riley said. “He’s capable of playing the position. You’re right, part of playing that position at this level is not only the quote-on-quote on schedule plays, and plays that happen the way you think they’re gonna happen, but being able to improvise, knowing when to do that and making good decisions in those situations. He’s shown the ability to do that.
“I think we have a room full of guys that have shown the ability to do that. He just needs to play within himself and he’s got a good feel for the game once things break down and he just needs to trust himself and go do it.”