Oklahoma No. 3 in ESPN’s future quarterback power rankings

With a number of losses on the offensive side of the football to the NFL draft, there’s reason to wonder how good the Oklahoma Sooners offense will be in 2023.

The Sooners lost their leading rusher, top two receivers, and a pair of starting offensive tackles that are likely to be top 100 picks in the 2023 NFL draft. And still, they’re returning the player that matters most to offensive success; the quarterback.

Dillon Gabriel returns for his second season in Norman in what will be his last hurrah at the collegiate level. Gabriel brings back the most returning production at the position in the Big 12. That sets the Sooners up to be able to better mitigate the sting of the departures of Eric Gray, Marvin Mims, Brayden Willis, Anton Harrison, Wanya Morris, and Chris Murray.

With Gabriel for 2023 and Jackson Arnold waiting in the wings, offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby has the Sooners set up really well at the quarterback position for 2023 and beyond. ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg ranked the top 25 quarterback situations for 2023 and beyond (ESPN+), and the Oklahoma Sooners landed at No. 3.

The start of the Brent Venables era in Norman didn’t go well, but Gabriel wasn’t the problem. He passed for 3,168 yards with 25 touchdowns and six interceptions, while adding 315 rushing yards and six scores. Despite missing a game and most of another, his numbers compared favorably to his first two seasons at UCF. He could play two more seasons at OU, which retained coordinator Jeff Lebby, and should continue to produce. Oklahoma seemingly is well-positioned for whenever Gabriel departs after signing Jackson Arnold, ESPN’s top dual-threat quarterback and No. 3 overall player in the 2023 class. Arnold earned Gatorade National Player of the Year honors after passing for 3,476 yards and 33 touchdowns as a high school senior, while adding 921 rushing yards and 24 touchdowns.

Arnold should help with depth, as Oklahoma struggled mightily without Gabriel in losses to TCU and Texas. OU lost a quarterback with Nick Evers transferring to Wisconsin, but returns veteran Davis Beville for another year. If Arnold delivers on the expectations around him, the Sooners should be in very good shape under center through 2025. – Rittenberg, ESPN

The Sooners landed one of the top quarterbacks in the 2023 recruiting class in Jackson Arnold. He’s an ascending player, growing into a five-star player during his senior year, which included Elite 11 MVP honors and the Gatorade National Player of the Year Award. Arnold got a jump start on his collegiate career as a mid-year enrollee but will serve as a backup quarterback for the Sooners in preparation for his turn at the helm, likely starting in 2024.

Though he hasn’t committed yet, the Oklahoma Sooners are heavily favored to land 2024 four-star quarterback Michael Hawkins. Lebby and the Sooners will have to do battle with Sonny Dykes, Kendall Briles, and the TCU Horned Frogs, but are in a good spot to land the talented Hawkins when he commits on April 8.

The Sooners have already received their quarterback commitment of the 2025 recruiting class with the pledge of Kevin Sperry. He’s a talented dual-threat quarterback that will be a fantastic fit in Jeff Lebby’s offense.

The Sooners came in behind USC at No. 1 and Ohio State at No. 2.

The Trojans are set up well with Heisman trophy winner Caleb Williams and 2024 five-star signee Malachi Nelson. They’ll be a force offensively for as long as Lincoln Riley is in Los Angeles. But will the defense make enough improvements to help the Trojans get into national title contention?

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Story originally appeared on Sooners Wire