There’s a saying around these parts: Don’t whiz on my leg and tell me it’s raining.
For the uninitiated, that saying translates as such — please don’t try to convince me of something that you, I and most of the rest of mankind know to be bogus.
Those words become important about this time every year, when major college football conferences get together for their media days. They became important this year when Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley on Monday started discussing the Sooners’ quarterback race.
He tried to convince us there actually was one.
The runaway leader in the clubhouse is former Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts. Yet when asked what new dynamics Hurts brings to the lineup, Riley wasn’t ready to go in depth.
“He’s gotta win the job first,” Riley told reporters in Arlington, Texas. “If he wins the job, then we’ll talk about that.”
Before we go any further, here are the competitors for Oklahoma’s starting QB job:
n First, there’s Hurts, who went 26-2 under center, started two national title games and saved the Crimson Tide off the bench in last year’s SEC championship game. He did all this for a better football program in a conference where tackling isn’t just suggested, it’s required.
n Next up is redshirt freshman Tanner Mordecai, a former four-star prospect out of Texas that Riley recruited himself, though has yet to play a single snap of competitive college football.
n Then there’s true freshman Spencer Rattler, a five-star prospect from Arizona ranked the No. 11 overall recruit in 2019 by 247Sports. Yet he just enrolled at Oklahoma in June, so he hasn’t even participated in an official padded practice with the Sooners.
But, hey, we’re wide open here.
And I get why Riley would say something like that in the Sooners locker room. The last thing he needs is for Mordecai and Rattler to tune out and stop trying, then watch Hurts get injured and neither of them are ready to step in.
“I think in a team game, competition is one of the most important things there is,” Riley said Monday. “The second you just go anoint somebody, that’s gone. I don’t care if Joe Namath walks into the room right now, he’s got to win the job.”
Let’s look at all of this logically. Hurts was a two-year starter at Alabama, so if his work ethic was good enough for Nick Saban, it should be just fine in Norman. He’s the only quarterback among the three that has lined up under center in a college game. If he’s not the starter, something is seriously wrong in Sooner-ville.
And Hurts is a one-year rental for Oklahoma. He wants to go somewhere he can play. He’s not coming to Norman if the tea leaves don’t tell him he’s the top candidate for the job. If he comes in and Riley starts a freshman over him, his signing is a waste of Hurts’ time and a waste of Oklahoma’s scholarship spot.
If Riley wants to sit in front of reporters and say, “Yeah, I’d say Jalen is at the top of the depth chart, and this is what he’d bring to the table, but I didn’t guarantee him the job when he decided to transfer,” I’m cool with that. But please don’t tell me this competition is a toss-up.
And where there’s a real competition — like at West Virginia, for instance — I’m totally good with the coach hedging his bets. No one stood out as a clear favorite in Morgantown this spring, so when Neal Brown says the competition will continue into fall camp, I believe him.
But in Norman? Sorry, I don’t buy it.
Riley isn’t the first Power 5 college football coach to recruit a top-level transfer quarterback, then try to convince everyone the race for the starting job is a blank slate. He won’t be the last. But any coach who does that just sounds like a paranoid poker player doing everything he can to eliminate any and every tell possible.
Scenarios like the one at Oklahoma aren’t some end-of-the-world issue. It’s just that people are trying to insult the intelligence of others who have a pretty good grasp of what’s really going on. That’s just annoying.
As standing there with a wet pant leg often is.