In what has become a long lineage of talented quarterbacks and eventual No. 1 overall draft picks, Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray have blazed a trail that many other throwers are now lined up to take a part in: Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley’s offense. Being under the tutelage of the high octane and explosive offense has worked wonders for the starters that have experienced it. Jalen Hurts is another example of how the offense has developed and advanced the mechanics, thought process, and downfield decision making of all of the signal-callers
The latest protege for Riley is Spencer Rattler. A highly decorated multi-sport athlete that finished as one of the most celebrated high school football players ever in Arizona. As a first-time starter in the Sooners offense, Rattler experienced the usual growing pains of a young quarterback early on, but the game began to slow down for him after a few games. Finishing the season with 3,031 passing yards, 28 touchdowns, and seven interceptions, many evaluators will have eyes on Rattler to see how he performs during his second full season under center.
In the TDN scouting department, we are swiftly navigating our way through our assigned scouting regions and Rattler was one of the first names that I had to study. The beauty of summer scouting is that you enter each evaluation having no prior knowledge of prospects and each goes under the microscope with a clean slate. There aren’t any preconceived narratives, rumors, or silly talk about them. Of course, with him being such a notable name, he’s obviously a player that I’ve seen in action before on TV. Diving into the coaches' tape there, here are some angles on his evaluation that caught my eye the most.
The Good: It only takes a couple of throws to realize how easy of a thrower that Rattler is. Similar to an outfielder, he has a quick flick of the wrist throwing motion and the ball comes right out at 1 o’clock. For those that aren’t familiar with scouting lingo or terminology, think of an old-school analog clock. The long hand is considered the upward standing body stature of a quarterback, but the shorthand is used to symbolize where the release point is located.
Rattler has a nice, compact, and efficient follow-through that enables him to get plenty of juice behind the ball in all areas of the field. Operating in mostly a downfield passing attack, he has plenty of wow throws from all different locations in the pocket.
His best throw of the season came in the second quarter against Texas Tech (12:13 remaining), where he was forced to side-step and deliver a strike that eventually led to a 35-7 lead for the Sooners. What was noteworthy about it was his awareness to keep it away from the impending safety scraping over the top.
The most impressive quality about Rattler’s evaluation was his resiliency and ability to battle back from adversity. Particularly with quarterbacks during the evaluation process, scouts want to see how they battle back from bad moments in games.
A predictable strong opening week performance against Missouri State was followed up by two losses against Kansas State and Iowa State. In those two matchups, Rattler’s youth showed, as he compiled four interceptions during that two-game span... and then the Cotton Bowl against Texas happened. His struggles continued and Riley went as far as to bench Rattler during the second quarter. A blessing in disguise, that moment was the turning point of his redshirt freshman season. After many head-scratching moments in the first half, he returned in the third quarter to engineer the team to a 53-45 victory in four overtimes. A completely different player after those fatal flaws early on, he has since shown the flashes that many expected.
The Improvable: Being in the high octane, attacking offense like the Sooners deploy can be a gift and a curse for quarterbacks. Incorporating lots of "shot" plays down the field, which is a universal term for vertical routes that place lots of stress on defenses, Rattler was often able to show off his strong arm and touch on throws. The downside to that, though, is that when those players weren’t able to get open, Rattler was left stuck with the ball in his hands.
The Sooners offense deploys lots of two-man routes. An “all or nothing” type of attack often left Rattler without a check down or outlet to throw the ball to. This shined a huge light on his athleticism, which straddles the line of slightly above average. Rattler isn’t a dynamic athlete by any stretch of the imagination, but he can gain yards that are immediately made available to him. He isn’t a runner that’s going to make defenders miss in space nor one that you routinely design QB runs for, but he faces challenges with creating extra opportunities for himself. When Rattler commits to fully being a runner, he tucks the ball and doesn’t have the wherewithal of knowing how to reset his eyes to find reappearing targets that moved with him during scramble attempts. There were many opportunities that he left on the field where he could've lifted his eyes while running to find receivers that settled in opened windows.
The biggest area that Rattler will need to take a significant leap in next season is his understanding of not having to shoulder the entire load himself. It doesn’t only come as a passer, but also as a runner. On zone-read concepts, he has plenty of inexplicable pulls on plays that should’ve obviously been given to the running back. Many of his negative plays came in this fashion of him thinking that he has to be the hero when, in fact, he simply has to distribute and allow his playmakers to do what they’re on the field for.
In the last four games of the season, which came against Oklahoma State, Baylor, Iowa State (Big 12 Championship Game), and Florida, he began to display consistent knowledge and an understanding that he doesn’t have to place heavy emphasis on himself to make every single play. These contests were encouraging for him as he heads into next season.
In a quarterback crop that has lots of incomplete evaluations as many head into their first season of draft-eligible status, Rattler has all of the tools to eventually become a QB1 candidate. However, building on the consistency that he ended last season with will be the area that evaluators pay attention to the most.
*Extra Note: During the final stages of his high school career, Rattler was involved in "QB1: Beyond the Lights", which is a Netflix documentary that documented him. I haven't seen it, but there has been plenty of chatter about it. Since his time at Oklahoma, Rattler has not had any known hiccups on or off of the field to date.