Dean's List: Appreciating Dillon Gabriel, And Could He Be Headed To USC?

Sports Director Dean Blevins discusses Dillon Gabriel's entrance into the Transfer Portal, his impact on the university and the start of a new era in Norman.

Monday, December 4th 2023, 12:30 pm



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While the news that Dillon Gabriel has entered the transfer portal was anticipated, reports of the southpaw slinger potentially playing for Lincoln Riley and USC were not.

That’s the first reaction to the news.

The more appropriate thinking is, first, the appreciation and respect Gabriel earned after calming the waters in Norman to a degree created by Riley’s controversial departure from the program that gave him an immediate blue-blood opportunity for championships.

Gabriel’s arrival in Norman alongside his trusted offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby had a profoundly positive impact on Oklahoma football.

Very good when he arrived, Gabriel’s work ethic and QB tutoring saw him consistently improve. The first team All-Big 12 QB in 2023, after being its Offensive Newcomer of the Year in ‘22, developed into a dual-threat weapon who was largely responsible for winning several losable games this season. And his extraordinary winning performance in the Texas game placed him in the coveted hierarchy of the great Sooner signal-callers. 

We saw Gabriel’s immense value the season before in Oklahoma’s embarrassing shutout loss in the Cotton Bowl. Thus, a lesson learned on the necessity of having a viable and trusted backup QB. The Sooners may not have scored if that game was still being played.

While we expect greatness from ballyhooed freshman Jackson Arnold, he is human. Check nationally this season to see the extreme impact on teams who lost a standout starter to injury, for one game or for the season. It might stun you.

Beginning with Gabriel’s game-and-a-half injury setback this season, when having a high-quality backup paid off.

Oklahoma must add immediate depth in its quarterback room, the “quality depth” Brent Venables espouses. Especially heading into the SEC.

There is now a need for a proven veteran who could win games and provide essential confidence in the huddle, locker room, staff and fandom.

Optimally a guy with the character and humility of a Dillon Gabriel. As the potential list of candidates for a role like this shortens, toss in leadership qualities, a history of being team-first & an appreciation of what it means to be a quarterback at Oklahoma.

Someone like 25-year-old Casey Thompson, considering a final season of college ball after injuries derailed chances for significant starting success at Texas, Nebraska and Florida Atlantic.

In the past, Thompson did not believe a backup role in Norman was his best option. Now, I believe the son of former Sooner QB Charles Thompson would more strongly consider accepting a potential role of being an injury away from getting his shot to significantly contribute at the school of his dreams.

Hey, if there are other available quarterbacks out there in the portal to snag who could deliver the qualities needed in this often-overlooked role on powerful teams, for goodness' sake, OU should pursue them. The first point is not who, but the recognition of the need.

The 24 days culminating with OU’s Alamo Bowl game with a red-hot and favored Arizona team are overwhelming for a program at this stage in the Venables era.

Headlining the MUST DO LIST: Retention of your own players, the adding and subtracting from the portal, the early-signing date of a much-needed and potentially valuable recruiting class, and preparation for the bowl and game itself.

So, thank you and good luck to Dillon Gabriel, as he steadily continues his assault on the NCAA college football record book. Think long and hard about moving out West.

Good luck to Jackson Arnold. A winning chemistry with new offensive coordinator Seth Littrell is vital. So is as much patience as you can muster for the highs and lows ahead. The start of your time in Norman to date has been impressive.

And good luck to a Casey Thompson out there who could become an integral part of Oklahoma’s immediate success.

The staff does not need good luck in recognizing the importance of adding a valuable piece to its QB room. They do this for a living.

It's critically important for Oklahoma football to find its quintessential leader.

Gabriel's departure hurts OU's chances in the Alamo Bowl, but the decision to enter the transfer portal is not unexpected.

But USC?? Can't make this stuff up.

The much-anticipated start for the Sooners Jackson Arnold era is officially here.

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