Though just one game, and a loss at that, Arnold made believers of everybody
Note: Would you believe I wrote something only to forget about it? Weird, but in the blur of New Year’s approaching, I sent this column off to be printed in my old newspaper, yet forgot to put it up on the platform that makes such columns possible in the first place: this one, here at Oklahoma Columnist. Nonetheless, though it may appear a couple days out of date, if you’re a Sooner football fan, it should remain pertinent and of interest, reflecting the big picture of Jackson Arnold’s impact in his first collegiate start.
Here’s a question.
If name, image and likeness earnings were awarded then more like they are now, would things have turned out differently at Oklahoma for Spencer Rattler?
If you recall, Rattler was hawking his own merchandise during the summer of 2021.
He’d had a logo created for him. He was inviting “business inquiries” to be taken up with his agent, Chris Cabott, then with Steinberg Sports, now CEO of Equity Sports.
For that brief moment, college athletes, if they could, were actively capitalizing on their NIL possibilities.
Now, especially if they’re football players, they’re raking NIL dollars in passively, a gift from the collectives, which raise and dispense the dough, adjacent to the athletic departments they benefit.
That way, at least, individual players cannot separate themselves from their teammates so easily, as Rattler did. And maybe that was at the root of his Norman downfall.
So, good news, that temptation ought to be off the board for Jackson Arnold, Sooner quarterback right now and, who knows, perhaps three whole seasons going forward.
Oklahoma Columnist, by Clay Horning is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
It’s a small consideration, but maybe a big one, too, because the attributes bound to take him from good to great, amazing and perhaps timeless, we’ll just have to see, are just the kinds of things temptations into selfishness can chip away.
And if he can allude them, well …
Just listen to his coach.
“I know we’ve got the right guy and we’ve got the right group there,” Brent Venables said of Arnold and the Sooner offensive braintrust behind him following OU’s 38-24 Alamo Bowl loss to Arizona. “Broad shoulders, level headed, incredibly humble, tough on himself.
“I don’t ever worry about success going to his head, and I certainly don’t worry about if he’s fragile or a head case. This is a dude that’s very process driven, he’s very committed, he’s relentless with his work ethic.”
It was hard to watch Arnold’s “work ethic” on display Thursday night against the Wildcats, only because a single game is mostly a snapshot, but it was easy to catch the abilities and possibilities.
Though Arnold did not complete a pass until his fifth throw, a 6-yard toss to Nic Anderson, and though two of his first eight attempts were snagged by Wildcats rather than Sooners, he still finished the night 26 of 45 for 361 yards and two touchdowns.
He still directed an offense that gained 562 yards and 23 first downs, or 179 more yards and seven more first downs than Arizona.
Interestingly, when asked what he’d learned in his first collegiate start, of all people, Arnold brought up the team chaplain.
Do the golf teams get chaplains?
“I’d just say to battle through adversity,” Arnold said. “Our team chaplain this morning, that was the main focus, battling through adversity, because it’s going to strike at some point.”
Probably he didn’t need a clergyman to preview that possibility, but it’s good he knew it might strike and, better, he quarterbacked fabulously after it did.
As for his snafus — and his picks and at least a couple of his offensive line’s holding calls indeed belonged to him — he owned them.
“Those mistakes were on me,” Arnold said. “I’m going to take full responsibility for that.
“I’ve just got to be better. I thought they put me in a great position to win tonight.”
With the possible exception of three play-calls in the middle of the third quarter when the Sooners, beginning at their own 12-yard line, reached first-and-goal at the Wildcat 5.
From there, as though Jeff Lebby never left, incoming offensive coordinator Seth Littrell had Arnold hand the ball twice to Gavin Sawchuk and run it once himself, gaining one yard total, before Zach Schmit was sent out to kick a 24-yard field goal.
But why quibble about that?
Surely, Littrell will learn from his mistakes, too.
Back to the real topic, Arnold was pretty much all the Sooners could have asked for, especially in his first start, especially given how his first start began.
“First career start,” said linebacker Danny Stutsman, “he played his heart out.”
It was just one game, of course, but extrapolate it forward and the poor choices should diminish while all the good stuff multiplies.
The thing Arnold can’t do is get sidetracked.
We’ve seen it before around here, even from No. 1, no-doubt, can’t-fail prospects.
Yet, to watch him and listen to him, Jackson Arnold does not appear to be them.
He appears to be, for real, the Sooners’ quite bright future.