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As the Oklahoma Sooners close the book on the Red River Showdown and set their sights on the TCU Horned Frogs, the most prominent discussion will center on the quarterback position. Who will Lincoln Riley start at the game’s most important position when the Sooners face TCU?
Knowing Riley, we probably will not know the answer until the Oklahoma offense takes the field for the first series of the game Saturday night.
In his weekly “overreactions,” Erick Smith of USA TODAY Sports brings up several interesting questions Riley might be dealing with this week as he works through this decision.
Now comes the conundrum: Can you put the offense in the hands of a player with less than three quarters of experience when you are hoping to make the College Football Playoff? The easy answer would be to ride the wave of Williams playing well. Rated the No. 1 quarterback recruit in his class, the added dimension of his mobility opened spaces for the running backs. He appeared comfortable throwing the ball downfield to receivers. That was also against a defense not prepared for him. He will struggle at times against a back-loaded Big 12 schedule that includes games at Baylor and Oklahoma State. By making the switch now, Riley could also risk losing the ability to go back to Rattler when Williams struggles. Rattler was benched last year and responded. He could again. It’s a tough call. Riley wasn’t tipping his hand after the game. He may not until the first snap next week against TCU. – Smith
Let’s go through these questions one by one.
Can Lincoln Riley trust his offense in the hands of a true freshman?
Why not? He inserted Caleb Williams into the game in the second quarter with the Oklahoma Sooners trailing 35-17. In the Red River Showdown, one of the most raucous environments in college football. And the true freshman delivered.
After Williams was inserted into the lineup, the Oklahoma Sooners outscored the Texas Longhorns 38-13 from the middle of the second quarter to the final whistle.
Williams went into the game without the benefit of starters’ repetitions with the wide receiver corps or the offensive line. He had limited time to develop chemistry and communication with those guys, but it didn’t seem to matter. The offense thrived with him in the game. Whether it was Kennedy Brooks and the offensive line finding more running room or the downfield throws that gave Marvin Mims a chance to make a big play, Williams brought something to the offense that had been sorely lacking.
What if Williams struggles? Can Lincoln Riley go back to Rattler?
Why not? Riley has shown more than capable of making the difficult decisions at the most important position in football. He’s shown he’s more than willing to bench his starting quarterback if he’s holding the team back from playing at its potential. If Williams falters, Riley has a nice safety net in Rattler.
This wasn’t supposed to be Williams’ year anyway. If he has to take a step back after starting for the Sooners, Riley has time to develop him and get him ready for 2022.
At the same time, I don’t think Williams struggles. As he showed on Saturday, he has the intangibles to overcome mental errors or mistakes, bouncing back from botched snaps or bad throws.
Certainly, it’s a difficult decision for the head coach. He has relationships with both of these players, with Rattler the longest. There’s a sense of loyalty at play, which is why it sounds like he’ll give Rattler an opportunity to win the job this week. However, based strictly on performance, Williams deserves another opportunity to lead the Oklahoma Sooners.
Ultimately, it comes down to which quarterback gives the team the best chance to win a game. Six games into the season, with a little more than a half of meaningful football under his belt, Williams looks like the answer to that question.