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OU's Spencer Rattler passes the ball during the Red River Showdown, Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021, at Cotton Bowl Stadium in Dallas, Texas. 

Lincoln Riley didn’t wait for the question to be asked about who he’ll start at quarterback against TCU.

“I know I’ll get a bunch of questions about it,” Riley said during his media availability Tuesday. “I don’t plan on naming a starting quarterback this week. We’ll see how the week plays out and we’ll see where we are when we get to Saturday.

“The guys have done well. They practiced well today. We’ll see how it goes.”

Of course, the guys he’s referring to are redshirt sophomore Spencer Rattler and freshman Caleb Williams.

It was the main question he was asked following the Sooners’ 21-point comeback against Texas on Saturday, when Riley inserted Williams into the game after Rattler’s second-quarter fumble.

It’s a question Riley hasn’t had to deal with much in his seven-year tenure in Norman. The Sooners’ three starting quarterbacks prior to Rattler — Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray and Jalen Hurts — all won the Heisman Trophy or finished as the runner-up.

That decision was easy heading into this season, too, Riley said, as Rattler had started every game last season and played well to end the year.

“It was very clear that Spencer was the guy that was going to start the season,” Riley said. “I don’t think there was any doubt about that. Again, I know how these things go and everybody is going to remember what’s most fresh on their mind. A week ago, we’re sitting up here talking about how well Spencer played.

“The other part of it that we have to remember, I think we’re on a 14-game win streak right now. The sky’s not quite fallen."

But Williams’ performance against Texas has reopened that discussion.

Williams was a major catalyst in the Sooners’ 55-48 win in Dallas, as the Sooners scored on seven of nine possessions with him under center. He finished the game with three touchdowns and 300 total yards, and led the Sooners to 25 fourth-quarter points.

It wasn’t the perfect performance, Riley said, but he was impressed with the poise that Williams showed despite playing in a tough environment.

“There were still some young jitters out there,” Riley said. “Maybe not obvious to somebody that’s not coaching him, but there were still moments where he looked like a freshman. For the most part, he did handle it well.”

“For a young guy to go in and handle it at that position does say a lot about him. The atmosphere doesn’t get better than that. I would say anytime you can get these young guys on the field and give them a chance to play and they do well, you gain confidence in them as a coach and they’re gonna gain more confidence as a player.”

For any praise Riley gave to Williams, he made sure to direct some towards Rattler, too. He credited Rattler for finding Drake Stoops on a crucial two-point conversion in the fourth quarter that tied the game at 41-41, his lone appearance on the field after being benched in the second quarter.

Riley said he even gave Rattler the day off yesterday to “refresh and recharge” before Tuesday’s practice.

“Considering the circumstances, he’s doing well,” Riley said. “It’s not easy for a young guy. This guy gets painted a different way publicly than what he really is. He’s a great kid. He’s worked his tail off here. He’s been a really good player here. I have a ton of trust in him. He’s doing well.

“It’s not easy. It’s not easy competing at the level that we do and being on [this] kind of stage and platform.”

The OU Daily reported that Williams took the majority of practice snaps with the starters on Tuesday, indicating that he could be the starting quarterback on Saturday.

But if he is, fans won’t know until game time.

“For me, I feel like I have two really good players,” Riley said. “I don’t see it as a problem. I don’t see it as an issue. You get to choose between two great options and it’s a good position to be in.

"I know both of those kids will respond no matter what position they are in."

Jesse Crittenden is the sports editor of The Transcript and covers OU athletics. Reach him at jesse@normantranscript.com or at 405-366-3580

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