Oklahoma QB Spencer Rattler showed one big weakness in 2021 opener

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The knock on Oklahoma quarterbacks under head coach and offensive play-designer Lincoln Riley, from Baker Mayfield to Kyler Murray to Jalen Hurts, is that Riley is so good at scheming openings for his quarterbacks, that those quarterbacks are generally incapable of (or at least underdeveloped when it comes to) making second- and third-level reads downfield. It wasn’t true in Mayfield’s case, nor in Murray’s case, and Hurts is also proving that it’s generally a canard.

However, after one full seasons as the Sooners’ starter in 2020, Spencer Rattler, the Heisman favorite and next man in line, made things far more complicated for himself than he needed to in the season opener, as Oklahoma barely squeaked by Tulane in a 40-35 thriller in which Rattler looked… well, rattled far more often than you would have expected. Snakebit, perhaps?

Okay, we’ll stop.

The Sooners had the geographical advantage after the game was moved from New Orleans to Norman due to Hurricane Ida, and they would probably not like to think about how this would have played out if Tulane had a home game.

That all started with Rattler, who got off on the wrong foot with an interception on his second attempt of the year.

Rattler hit this late into converging double coverage, and his second interception of the day wasn’t much better. With 13:51 left in the game, Rattler overthrew tight end Austin Stogner, and the ball went right into the hands of safety Macon Clark.

Rattler finished his day with 30 completions on 39 attempts for 304 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions, and at least one more interception he should have had on a highly questionable pass interference call with 6:42 left in the game.

The primary issue here is that may not be a one-off.

The Green Wave tended to hold back in coverage against Rattler as opposed to getting beaten with Riley’s concepts in a more aggressive fashion, and perhaps they noted that in 2020 per Sports Info Solutions, Rattler threw six of his seven interceptions against zone coverage.

Is Rattler the Oklahoma quarterback under Lincoln Riley who can’t transcend favorable scheme, and come through when things get more difficult? It’s altogether early to make such pronouncements, but Rattler is at a crossroad. Until and unless he proves able to beat zone coverage in time and in rhythm beyond his first read, he’ll be walking to the ice cream factory every Saturday this season.