Oklahoma‘s spring game was a big day for all Sooner quarterbacks past, present, and future. Former Oklahoma quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray had a statue of himself unveiled before kickoff in Heisman Park alongside other former winners prior to the Red-White Spring Game.
And during the game itself, each of the Sooners’ quarterbacks had strong showings, including returning starter and fifth-year graduate transfer quarterback Dillon Gabriel. Gabriel was particularly mobile on Saturday, and following the spring game, head coach Brent Venables was asked if that resulted from their improved position depth.
“I mean that’ll certainly be into play, how much more willingness, we’ll still continue to evaluate but we do feel better about our quarterback situation obviously,” Venables admitted.
Along with showing off his mobility, Gabriel completed 11 of his 17 pass attempts for 140 yards, three touchdowns, and an interception. Freshman quarterback Jackson Arnold also found the end zone, throwing for 64 yards and finding Gavin Freeman on a late, game-tying touchdown pass. Even Davis Beville got in on the action, throwing just one incompletion along with 83 yards and a touchdown.
Saturday’s spring game was definitely a solid day for Oklahoma’s quarterback room. So much so that Venables may be willing to use Gabriel even more in the running game moving forward during the season.
“And Dillon has shown as he did last year several times the ability to escape pressure, and make plays, improvise, but designed quarterback run will be something that we’ll carry into every game I would imagine,” Venables said.
Gabriel ranked second in the Big 12 in passing yards and touchdowns only behind TCU quarterback and Heisman Trophy finalist Max Duggan last season. But he also got it done with his legs, rushing for 315 yards and six touchdowns on the ground, both career highs.
His running ability added another threat and dynamic to a Sooners’ offense that already ranked first in the conference in yards per game, averaging 474 yards per contest. But cutting Gabriel loose even more in the rushing attack could take them to another level.
Gabriel did suffer a concussion last season while on the run versus TCU following a scary hit in the second quarter versus the Horned Frogs. Gabriel missed the remainder of that game and the Sooners’ next matchup versus rival Texas, games that both resulted in losses.
Given his running ability, injury history, and Oklahoma’s newfound depth at the quarterback position, it will definitely be interesting to see how the Sooners utilize Gabriel’s legs in the offense moving forward in the 2023 season.
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