As a teenager, Spencer Rattler appeared in a Netflix reality show called “QB1: Beyond the Lights” that documented ballyhooed high school quarterbacks.
Rattler could have staged a reality drama of a different sort this winter. Think of it as a “Bachelor” spin-off in which a coveted college quarterback in the transfer portal engages suitors before issuing a rose to one lucky coach.
That’s, in essence, how Rattler described the pursuit for his services after he announced in late November that he was departing Oklahoma.
“Almost every school around the country contacted me and my family,” Rattler said Wednesday during his first news conference at South Carolina, his new home. “A lot of different schools, a lot of different coaches flying out to visit me in Arizona, just to talk.”
All that was missing was the documentary crew.
The Phoenix native chose a meeting with Shane Beamer, a former Sooners assistant entering his second season as South Carolina’s coach.
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Rattler is the poster child for the modern-day SEC quarterback in that he’s a transfer in line to start at his new school.
In another sign of the times, Rattler’s arrival at South Carolina was met by his receiving a new Chevrolet Silverado from a local dealership in an endorsement deal.
This is not your grandfather’s brand of amateur athletics.
As many as six transfer quarterbacks could earn starting jobs within the nation’s premier conference.
Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker and Kentucky’s Will Levis are transfers who are returning starters. Transfers Zach Calzada and TJ Finley headline Auburn’s competition. Ole Miss plucked Jaxson Dart from Southern Cal to be its starter. At Texas A&M, LSU transfer Max Johnson will aim to supplant home-grown talent Haynes King, who returns after fracturing his leg in September.
Reigning Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young is entering his third season at Alabama, including his second as a starter, after signing with the Tide as a blue-chip prospect.
Georgia is coming off a national championship season in which veteran Stetson Bennett IV surpassed transfer JT Daniels as the starter. Bennett’s journey included a junior college detour, but he’ll finish his college career like he started it – as a Bulldog.
Mac Jones embodied the old-school, stick-it-out approach, and he led Alabama’s 2020 team to a national championship. Jones bided his time as a reserve for three seasons before claiming a starring role.
But Jones’ career path already looks vintage amid this era of the transfer.
The prize for winning the quarterback carousel became apparent in 2019. Three of the four teams in the playoff that season featured transfer quarterbacks: LSU’s Joe Burrow (from Ohio State), Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts (from Alabama) and Ohio State’s Justin Fields (from Georgia ).
And that was before the NCAA changed its bylaws last year to grant immediate eligibility for first-time transfers. The change in legislation removed the brake on transfers, and the quarterback carousel twirled at full speed this offseason.
Oklahoma is a microcosm.
The Sooners boasted a pair of five-star quarterbacks, Rattler and Caleb Williams, last season. Oklahoma won 14 consecutive games with Rattler as its starter, but he nonetheless surrendered the starting job in October after Williams rallied the Sooners past a 21-point deficit in a victory over rival Texas.
Rattler announced his plans to transfer one day after Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley skipped town for Southern Cal. Next came Williams, who reunited with Riley in Los Angeles.
That created a void that Central Florida transfer Dillon Gabriel filled. Gabriel is in line to become OU’s starter.
I don’t blame any member of the trio.
The coaching staff that recruited Rattler and Williams bolted, so why should they stay? And Gabriel seized the chance to finish his career playing on a larger stage.
Fair play to each of them.
Some Oklahoma fans turned on Rattler during the 2021 season, and Riley defended Rattler against speculation that the quarterback was selfish or a poor teammate.
Rattler’s reboot offers a fresh start that can benefit Rattler and the Gamecocks, who started three quarterbacks last season.
Rattler said he’s “totally refreshed” and “very comfortable” at South Carolina, which he described as operating a player-oriented program.
“I think I landed in the perfect spot,” he said.
Rattler spoke of Beamer being “a great influence” on Oklahoma players during his time on Riley’s staff.
“I knew he was doing something special down here,” Rattler said. “I just wanted to come be a part of it.”
I can’t think Beamer would have wanted Rattler to be the face of his program if he was a bad locker-room guy.
To the contrary, Beamer has described Rattler as being “very grounded” and “a great young man” who is immersed in his new program. Also, it’s notable that former OU tight end Austin Stogner joined Rattler at South Carolina.
Some of the overblown criticism Rattler encountered last season seemed like it belonged in a reality show.
Of course, separating reality television from college football is harder to do these days
Blake Toppmeyer is a SEC Columnist for the USA TODAY Network. Follow him on Twitter @btoppmeyer.