NASHVILLE — Spencer Rattler‘s journey through football has vacillated between distinct extremes. He entered Oklahoma as an elite recruit and exited as a high-profile transfer. His stint as an OU starter was sandwiched around a Super Bowl quarterback (Jalen Hurts) and the latest Heisman Trophy winner (Caleb Williams).
Along the way, he’s been benched at Oklahoma, endured nearly a half-season of struggles at South Carolina and reignited his promising trajectory with a dazzling flourish to end the 2022 season that included wins over Tennessee and Clemson.
As Rattler enters his senior year at South Carolina and second overall at the school, he reflected on his jagged journey and predicted the struggles are going to help him thrive in the long-term.
“I see it as a blessing,” Rattler said. “God has me going through this for a reason. That’s how I look at it, truly. And there can’t be success without adversity. So being able to go through that adversity and come out on the other end, it’s a great feeling.”
So what version of Rattler will emerge in 2023 for South Carolina? Is it the prospect with elite arm talent who was once projected as the Heisman winner and a potential No. 1 NFL draft pick? Or will it be the player who threw eight interceptions in South Carolina’s first six games and left Oklahoma after getting benched and beat out by Williams?
Scouts still view Rattler as having elite arm talent, and he doesn’t shy away from his desire to fulfill the vision many had for him early in his career.
“I feel like none of that is off the table,” Rattler said of the high expectations. But he added his focus remains on winning and “all the personal success will come.”
When Rattler’s play rose, South Carolina turned its fortunes last season. The Gamecocks won at Kentucky for the first time since 2012 and toppled Texas A&M for the first time in school history as Rattler found his groove and capped the season by throwing for 360 yards and a pair of touchdowns in South Carolina’s first win over Clemson since 2013.
In his signature performance of the 2022 season, Rattler threw six touchdown passes and for 438 yards against Tennessee in an axis-shifting upset of the Vols that eliminated them from the College Football Playoff. “I felt unstoppable,” Rattler said in the aftermath.
Can the good vibes continue after a season where Rattler finished with 18 touchdowns and 12 interceptions? South Carolina’s offensive coordinator, Marcus Satterfield left for the Nebraska offensive coordinator job. The Gamecocks hired veteran NFL coach Dowell Loggains, via Arkansas, who brings more than a decade of experience as both an NFL offensive coordinator and quarterback coach.
Rattler said that Loggains has been “awesome” to work with and pointed to a spring focused on more explosive plays. South Carolina lacked consistency on offense last year, as the only touchdown against Florida came on a fake punt and the offense mustered just one touchdown against Missouri.
“I feel like we left something on the table last year,” Rattler said. “Toward the end of the season, November on, we scratched the surface [and] showed what we can do.”
South Carolina starts this year with a showcase game against North Carolina, which will offer one of the season’s best quarterback matchups between Rattler and UNC’s Drake Maye.
A big performance in one of the opening weekend’s biggest stages could catapult Rattler back into the upper-echelon NFL prospect quarterback conversation, a place where Maye enters the season as one of the most prominent names.
South Carolina coach Shane Beamer said he played golf recently with an NFL general manager and they discussed how Rattler’s uneven journey shouldn’t obscure his obvious talent.
“He was a projected No. 1 pick and a preseason highest trophy [candidate],” Beamer said. “He all of a sudden just didn’t forget how to play football. Now we’ve obviously got to win football games, and the best individual award winners, they come from great teams typically … But everything that was on the table is still on the table for Spencer.”