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Spencer Rattler has shown that he’s able to bounce back from adversity in the past. In 2020, he started the season with five interceptions in his first four games, including three in a loss to Kansas State, one in the loss to Iowa State, and one in the first half of the Texas game, which led to his benching.
Over the final seven games of the season, the Sooners’ starting quarterback threw just two more interceptions while keeping his touchdown rate at a high level.
While the critiques of Spencer Rattler’s performance in week three are justified, he’s still a really good quarterback with a lot of talent. In 2021, he’s struggling to put it on display.
It was just a year ago when Rattler was leading the Sooners to another season of high-scoring offense. In six of their 11 games, the Sooners’ offense went for more than 40 points, four times more than 50, and twice more than 60 points. That doesn’t happen unless you have a good quarterback.
The expectations following Rattler are nothing new. He’s been a highly regarded quarterback prospect since he was a freshman in high school. The problem at this point is that the expectations aren’t being met in 2021.
The numbers aren’t flashy in 2021. At the same time, he’s not turning the ball over at the same rate he was in the early stages of 2020. He’s protecting the football and making sure his team lives to fight another down.
While his yards per attempt is down to 7.6 from 9.6 last season, some of that is due to the way teams are playing the Oklahoma Sooners in 2021. They’re forcing Oklahoma to drive the length of the field and are not allowing big plays. Rattler’s average depth of target per Pro Football Focus is down 2.5 yards per attempt compared to his 10.2 aDOT of 2020.
That said, he’s completing passes at a higher rate in 2021 than he did in 2020. Up from his 67.5% completion percentage last season, Rattler’s completion percentage this year is 74%. Among FBS quarterbacks with at least 42 dropbacks on the season, Rattler’s completion percentage is fifth in the country.
He may not be getting the ball downfield at as high a rate as he was last year, but he’s also not turning it over at the same rate he did in the early part of the 2020 season.
When you reign in a gunslinger, sometimes it’s difficult for the gunslinger to pull the trigger. If he’s thinking about where he shouldn’t throw it vs. where he should throw it, then he may not get the ball out on time because he’s concerned with making a mistake.
All the talent is still there for Spencer Rattler to be one of the best quarterbacks in college football. Because teams are taking away the deep ball, he may not be getting opportunities to display that talent as much in 2021. Against a West Virginia defense that Maryland quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa torched in week one, Spencer Rattler has a chance to rebound with a nice performance under the lights against the Mountaineers.