The Downfall of OU

The 2021 season presented many unexpected challenges for the Oklahoma University Sooners, a team widely known for their dominant football program before this year. In a season where a Heisman candidate quarterback got benched for a freshman, it seemed as if things couldn’t have gotten worse for the Oklahoma Sooners. 


The ruination of OU football continued this past Sunday when Lincoln Riley, the head coach for the past 4 years, announced that he would become the new head coach of the University of Southern California. This came as a surprise to many, as it marks the first time in 75 years that an OU coach left for another school. This announcement comes days after their loss to neighboring school Oklahoma State University, essentially concluding their mediocre season in a gloomy way. While this departure greatly affects the chemistry of the current team, this sudden change has led many top-tier recruits to switch teams, some even joining Riley at his new home. 


Among those who have decommitted following Riley’s transfer is 5-star quarterback Malachi Nelson from Southern California. Though initially committed to OU and on pace to become the starting quarterback, he announced on his Twitter that it was “best if (he) decommits from OU” amid the “recent events and changes” that have occurred. While he wasn’t certain of his next destination at the start, he recently made it clear that he would be staying home and joining Riley, posting an edited picture of him with a USC jersey on Instagram with the caption “yeah, this feels right.” Nevertheless, Nelson is only one of many choosing to transfer schools subsequent to Riley’s departure. 


Former Heisman candidate, Spencer Rattler, was the first of the current OU players to enter the transfer portal, a move that does not come as a surprise to anyone. Despite entering the season as one of the top quarterbacks in all of college football, Rattler had a very difficult start to his season. In fact, he lost his starting job after one outstanding play by backup Caleb Williams; a 66 yard rushing touchdown on a 4th and 2 against the Texas Longhorns completely ended the season for Rattler. The team was evidently more dominant with Williams under center, hence why Riley continued to bench Rattler. With the accumulation of being a backup and no longer working with one of college’s best coaches, Rattler was quick to enter the transfer portal once postseason ensued. 


Wide receiver Jadon Haselwood, one of the top 5 recruits of the 2019 class, also announced on Instagram that he would be transferring schools following Lincoln’s switch. In general, it had been hard for Haselwood to find a solid footing with the program; after three years, his best season consisted of 399 yards and 6 touchdowns, a stat line that does not correlate with his uplifting potential. It should also be noted that starting quarterback, Caleb Williams, changed his Instagram bio from “quarterback” to “scholar” at Oklahoma, hinting towards the idea that he may be looking for a new program to exploit his talents with. 


Despite entering the season ranked number 3 in the NCAA, this superior program faced numerous challenges that ultimately led to its downfall. The departure of Lincoln Riley created a domino effect that in-essence regressed the team chemistry and caused many star players to search for a new playing field. While the future of the program may be in doubt, it’s at least encouraging to see the hiring of former defensive coordinator Brent Venables, a coach who once had success within Clemson. It will be difficult for Venables to live up to the standards of Riley, but it is certainly intriguing to see how the Sooners will come back from this mess in 2022.