The Big 12 enters 2022 with several questions and fresh faces at quarterback across the conference.
Five different Big 12 programs will likely feature a new QB while others have ongoing battles or wonders about their returners. How will each handle their situation and what’s the outlook for the Big 12’s programs with these signal-callers at the helm? As it looks like Texas and Oklahoma will be staying for a couple more seasons, the direct short-term future of the conference lies in what this new era of quarterbacks looks like.
Let’s take a look at some of the questions the Big 12’s quarterbacks must answer.
OKLAHOMA’S DILLON GABRIEL: BIG SHOES TO FILL — AND IS HE 100%?
Former UCF quarterback Dillon Gabriel has arrived in Norman. He’s one of several fresh faces in the ‘Sooner State’ as Oklahoma football goes through a transition. While the Sooners have already labeled Gabriel as their guy, there’s still plenty of pressure on the incoming transfer.
It’s no secret: Oklahoma fans have been spoiled with special quarterback play. In a world where college football programs scramble to find above-average talent at times, the Sooners have seemingly seen a rotating door of strong talent man the position. Gabriel has some big shoes to fill, Caleb Williams has left the program and a strong quarterback lineage leaves high expectations. Will Gabriel be able to maintain the type of play Sooner fans are used to?
Also, can he do so after a major injury? Last season, Gabriel dealt with a broken collarbone that sidelined him for much of the year. An injury of that nature could have some lasting effects, so how will it impact his 2022 campaign? It’s likely Gabriel will be asked to toss the rock in high volume over the course of the season, how he looks doing so will be something to follow.
Of course, the offense asking him to fill up the stat sheet is one he’s familiar with. Jeff Lebby was Gabriel’s offensive coordinator at UCF and now the two enter a new program together. As a duo, they combined to create one of the more high-profile offenses found across the country. However, this is a completely new level. Will Gabriel and Lebby be able to recreate that magic in the Power Five? The answer to that question will shape the responses to the other matters presented, plus a few others.
TEXAS’ QUINN EWERS: CAN HE HANDLE THE PRESSURE?
Possibly the most nationally followed situation in the conference, the Big 12 could be directly reshaped depending on Quinn Ewers. The former Ohio State Buckeye has come home and is getting ready to lead the Longhorns. While he’ll have to battle it out with a returner in Hudson Card, there are other big-picture issues surrounding Ewers’ situation.
The first question is simple: What will he look like? Ewers went through a weird first year at the collegiate level, making waves in the world of NIL after foregoing his senior year of high school but only taking two total snaps in 2021.
Going off of that, are the expectations too great for someone who may need further development? Ewers simply hasn’t seen a ton of action at the collegiate level and will likely still need to go through a bit of an adjustment period. Of course, as that plays out in front of fans and the college football landscape, patience won’t be something on the minds of viewers. Ewers’ ability to progress in a rapid manner is crucial.
Finally, let’s talk about those expectations mentioned. Ewers grew up a Longhorn fan and now arrives with the program expected to be somewhat of a savior. But will he be the one who can finally help resurrect Texas? Obviously this won’t be accomplished in one year, but Ewers’ time in Austin could directly shape the longterm outlook of the Longhorns under Steve Sarkisian. It’s safe to say there’s a lot riding on Ewers’ campaign at Texas.