There are certain players coming out of high school that we can tell are destined for future NFL success. Quarterbacks Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields were two of the highest touted recruits in years and both look poised to be picked inside the top five in the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft. Chase Young, Ed Oliver, Nick Bosa, Derrick Brown, Myles Garrett, Julio Jones, AJ Green and Patrick Peterson all went from top-10 high school recruits to being selected inside the top 10 in the NFL Draft. Lightning may have struck again with Spencer Rattler, Oklahoma’s highest-ranked quarterback recruit since Rhett Bomar in 2004. In 2020, Rattler looks like a budding star for the Sooners.

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The spotlight has never been too big for Spencer Rattler

Rattler has been under a heavy microscope since his freshman year. Lincoln Riley sent Rattler an offer when he was just 14 years old, turning heads all across the country. At that point, Riley was coming off a spectacular first season as offensive coordinator for Oklahoma, taking the Sooners to the College Football Playoffs under quarterback Baker Mayfield and was seen as the new hot coaching name in college football.

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Rattler met with Tim Kish, Oklahoma’s former linebackers coach, through a private quarterback coach, Mike Giovando. Kish stopped by a practice to see Rattler and was immediately impressed. Relaying the information to Riley, Kish said he was making “every throw in the book you would want from a senior.” Riley turned on the film and promptly sent the offer to Rattler.

Committing to Oklahoma

Fast forward to the summer of 2017. Riley was named head coach at Oklahoma after the retirement of the legendary Bob Stoops. That same summer, Rattler commits to Oklahoma. Offers have come Rattler’s way, but he stayed firm with the Sooners throughout the entire process, even as he rose to a five-star recruit, and making his way into the top 10.

Rattler was thrust under an even larger microscope when he was featured in the “QB1” documentary on Netflix, along with Lance LeGendre (Maryland) and Nik Scalzo (Kentucky). This documentary previously followed quarterbacks like Jake Fromm, Justin Fields, Sam Hartman, Re-al Mitchell, and Tate Martell.

Rattler was also named the Elite 11 MVP, a competition that gathers the best high school recruits from across the country. This is a prestigious award and puts Rattler in a group of players like Fields, Tua Tagovailoa, and Jameis Winston. The pressure and spotlight have been on Rattler from the beginning, but all he’s done is thrive underneath the heat.

Even before he was officially named the starter, Rattler was third in Heisman voting — all because of the marriage of his own natural talent and Riley’s coaching.

The first thing that stands out when listening to Spencer Rattler is his confidence — both in himself and in his teammates. He carries himself with poise and confidence that is incredibly rare in a redshirt freshman in their first year starting. “With my guys around me, my coaches around me, you have to be confident,” Rattler proclaimed in an interview this week. “We work hard. We all have that swag about us.”

On-field performance was everything Sooner fans were hoping for

All the hype behind Rattler and his arm from behind the scenes had Sooners fans praying for his debut to come sooner (I’m so sorry) than later, even as Jalen Hurts led Oklahoma to yet another Big 12 title and a College Football Playoff appearance.

Rattler played a very small portion of 2019, including in the playoff game against LSU, but it was mainly garbage time. Finally, after years of ballyhooing, Rattler made his 2020 debut start for the Sooners against Missouri State. Boy, was it special.

Rattler shot out of a cannon, completing 14-of-17 passes for 290 yards and four touchdowns in virtually one half of football. Two of those incompletions were touchdowns that ended up being dropped. The ball leaped out of Rattler’s hands with an ease that left many stunned.

On the very first drive, Rattler completed one of the best throws you’ll see to running back Jeremiah Hall right on the goal line, showing off his quick release, touch, and arm talent in one smooth motion.

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Off play-action, Rattler’s first two reads aren’t there, so he starts to move off to the left to avoid the pass rush. As he’s moving, Hall works back to Rattler, coming open just enough for a pass. Rattler quickly resets and fires a strike on the sideline. Hall dives for it, and it’s a 24-yard gain. The very next play, the Sooners score.

On the following drive, Rattler’s arm was on full display for a 58-yard rainbow downfield to freshman wide receiver Marvin Mims. While the throw itself is certainly impressive, Rattler’s pocket management skills show up, as he slides to the left in order to open up a better throwing lane for himself.

Rattler also launches a perfect “drop in the bucket” throw to Charleston Rambo over the shoulder, but unfortunately, Rambo drops a sure touchdown. The arm talent and quick release are on full display, as he has a rusher bearing down on him. It’s a stellar throw that unfortunately won’t count on the stat sheet for Rattler.

Perhaps Rattler’s best throw came early in the second quarter. This was the throw that had many Sooners fans and analysts around the country buzzing. This one’s another look off of play-action against what looks like Cover-3 from Missouri State.

Wide receiver Theo Wease runs a “slant-and-go” route on the hashes at the bottom of the screen. Rattler stares the throw down, but with his arm talent, he covers up mistakes like that. He fits the throw right on the sideline over the defender and hits Wease in stride. You can count the number of quarterbacks in the country that can make that throw on one hand. His release is so easy and smooth.

Yes, it was against Missouri State. That doesn’t diminish the talent displayed on these throws at all, however. His arm isn’t going to magically diminish when playing Texas or even a playoff team later in the year if the Sooners make it that far. His release won’t drop off either.

Rattler wasn’t perfect in the game. There were a few plays where he ran into pressure and sacks. However, the Sooners were without their starting left tackle, Anton Harrison, due to contact tracing.

Meanwhile, they had guys like Adrian Ealy and Erik Swenson playing a different position along the offensive line, in comparison to where they lined up in 2019. It’s difficult for guys to adjust in their first game at a different position. Outside of those few mistakes, it was a stellar outing for Rattler to start his 2020 campaign off on the right foot.

Where does Rattler go from here?

Obviously Rattler will make his share of mistakes *at some point* in the season. It’s his first year starting and there will be some freshman moments. He won’t be completely perfect all season long (if he is, say a prayer for the rest of the Big 12). The talent that caused noteworthy attention in Norman was fully on display against Missouri State. Rattler looks poised to have a monster year in 2020.

After a “down year” in terms of passing last year with Jalen Hurts, Rattler looks to be a callback to Mayfield and Murray, which will have many Oklahoma fans happy. He’ll face a much stiffer test against Kansas State this week, who beat the Sooners last season and are a physical team along the defense. If he keeps up this trajectory, we’ll be talking about Rattler as a top pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.

It’s my belief that talent translates from one level to the next. It’s all about the coaching that unlocks that next step. With Riley, who has put three quarterbacks into the NFL and two number one overall picks, there’s no better coach to unlock Rattler’s talent. While Rattler will have to clean up the pocket management and consistently show off his ability, his future looks extremely promising.