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OU football: Lincoln Riley unsure if he'll start Spencer Rattler or Caleb Williams for Sooners' game against TCU

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Lincoln Riley

Head coach Lincoln Riley during the game against Kansas State in Manhattan on Oct. 2.

After freshman Caleb Williams took over for preseason Heisman favorite Spencer Rattler in Oklahoma’s 55-48 comeback win over Texas, head coach Lincoln Riley isn’t sure which quarterback will start going forward.

“I haven’t made that decision yet, certainly.” Riley said Monday during the Big 12’s coaches call. “I think, just like any position, we’ll look at the game plan versus TCU and continue to evaluate these guys as they practice and go with who helps us the most. (We) had really good contributions from both of them last week to help us win that game, and we may need that as we go forward.

“I feel like we have two guys in the room that are really good players that we can win with. So, we’ll keep (evaluating), keep trying to put the best people on the field that helps us win, move the ball and score points.”

The consensus No. 1 quarterback recruit in 2021, Williams went 16-of-25 passing for 212 yards and two touchdowns while leading the Sooners. Rattler, a redshirt sophomore, ended the day 8-of-15 for 111 yards and an interception but was benched in the second quarter after fumbling. He later reentered the game for a two-point conversion in the fourth quarter. 

There, he found redshirt junior receiver Drake Stoops in the endzone for the score, tying the game 41-41 with 7:25 to go. Riley called the conversion the “most important play” of OU’s 21-point rally. The Sooners (6-0, 3-0 Big 12) take on TCU (3-2, 1-1) at 6:30 p.m. in Norman on Saturday.

This is now the second time Riley has handled an in-season quarterback battle in his coaching career. In his third season at East Carolina, he benched starter Rio Johnson in the Pirates’ second game for Shane Carden, who went on to become a two-time all conference selection for ECU.

Rattler is 130-of-175 this season for 1,371 yards, 10 touchdowns and five picks. In the Sooners’ 16-13 win over West Virginia on Sept. 25, fans chanted for Williams to enter the game after Rattler tossed an interception in the second quarter. 

Despite Williams’ heroic performance in the Red River Showdown, which earned him the Big 12 Newcomer of the Week award, he was not made available for post game interviews. Riley has long held freshmen from media appearances during their first year in Norman.

“I always make decisions for the team first,” Riley said of not making freshmen available to media members. “It’s something that’s been done at this program for a long time, something I believe in, something our players know on the front end and it’s just something we’re not going to change in the middle of the season.”

Riley went on to mention his staff may reevaluate that protocol after this year in light of the NCAA’s name, image and likeness policy, saying he doesn’t want to prevent his players from certain opportunities.

As for what will make up Riley’s mind for who wins the starting job against the Horned Frogs, he believes the matter will take care of itself during the Sooners’ practice this week.

“It’s about competition,” Riley said.  “We know, throughout the year, you're going to need a lot of guys on all sides of the ball (and) all positions to contribute to be able to win. … I feel fortunate that we have two good players in the room, and we’ll continue to lean on both of them.”

Chandler Engelbrecht is a journalism senior and The Daily's enterprise editor. Previously, he served as The Daily's assistant sports editor and covered OU football. He graduates in May 2022.

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