Oklahoma produced Heisman Trophy winners at quarterback the past two seasons, and there will be a new man behind center when the Sooners open the 2019 season against Houston in a prime-time game Sept. 1.
But head coach Lincoln Riley tapped the brakes on national clamoring for Alabama transfer Jalen Hurts to be named the starting quarterback in fall camp.
“You get a lot more accurate snapshot of where these guys are really at, as camp unfolds,” Riley said during Oklahoma’s media day Friday. “I would prefer to [name a starter during camp] because then you’re able to get it out of the way, you’re able to start to focus your reps in on the starter and the team knows — everybody knows — and you can move on.”
Last season, it was the third week of August before eventual Heisman winner Kyler Murray was officially announced as OU’s starter and the successor to Baker Mayfield. Both quarterbacks followed their Heisman moments by becoming the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft.
The well might not run as deep this season, and Riley wants to tamp down expectations of any formal announcement immediately.
“It’s one of those things that when you know, you know,” Riley said. “We evaluate stats, but it’s off a feel. It’s more than just the numbers. It’s the feel of the guy that’s gonna not only produce and play the best but also lead the best, as well. I’m not super-experienced, but I’m experienced enough to know I’m darn sure not nailing it down right now. We’ll see how it unfolds.”
True freshman Spencer Rattler is considered a viable option for Riley. But the third-year coach said he will not “throw a freshman out there just because.”
The third quarterback in the competition is redshirt freshman Tanner Mordecai.
Tua Tagovailoa unseated Hurts as Alabama’s starter, opening the door for his transfer in the offseason. Hurts said only Riley could answer a question about what he’d need to do to win the starting job.
“I came in here with the intentions of being the best version of myself and earning respect of my teammates,” Hurts said. “They’ve accepted me and they look at me as their leader. It’s just a well-respected relationship between me and those guys. I try to go out there and set the right example, I try to lead the right way. You can’t be a hypocrite. I have to set a right example if I’m going to be leading those guys and trying to demand excellence out of them.”