Sep. 2—Earlier this week, Oklahoma announced the five captains that the team had chosen for the season opener against UTEP.
OU head coach Brent Venables had made it clear during fall camp that he would favor veteran players in that role. So it wasn't surprising when quarterback Dillon Gabriel made the list.
Starting quarterback Dillon Gabriel is a redshirt junior and transferred from UCF during the offseason, but he's quickly emerged as one of the leaders of the locker room. As an upperclassman, the Sooners' quarterback seems like an obvious pick for captaincy, but Gabriel knew he had to put in the effort in order to be seen as a leader on a new team.
"I think it was two things," Gabriel said, "one, proving the way I work and leading by example in the beginning, just because I didn't step on the field yet and I've got to earn the trust from the guys by the way I work and how intentional I am in the way I prepare.
"Two, just being myself and really diving deeper into relationships off the field, truly getting to know every single person on the offense as well as the defense and just being a teammate which I really pride myself on."
The evidence of Gabriel's leadership abilities have been on display for several months. There was the so-called 'Dime Time Retreat' when Gabriel invited the offense to a team bonding trip in a cabin on a lake near Lawton this summer.
He also hosted a similar retreat for his offensive linemen on Lake Thunderbird. But it's the accompanying praise from coaches and players that affirms Gabriel has what it takes to be a leader on and off the field.
"He's got humility and competitiveness, and he shows up every single day," OU head coach Brent Venables said. "From a leadership standpoint, those are all great qualities to have in your locker room. We all know it doesn't always happen that way. We're proud of Dillon and the way he's led us and gotten us to our opener here."
Oklahoma's quarterback will have options with experienced talent on the outside. Junior slot receiver Marvin Mims has 14 touchdown catches and over 1,300 yards receiving over the past two seasons.
Drake Stoops has played in 34 games over the past three seasons, with 521 yards receiving on 41 catches and four touchdowns. Theo Wease is a former five-star recruit and started 11 games as a sophomore before missing most of last season with an injury.
"The thing I love is there's a couple guys in there that are 'Steady Eddies'," Gabriel said about the receiving corps. "Marvin and Drake have had production, have lived the experience part of it, who work like pros every single day, have done a great job of pulling that group with them. From there you look at it, we've got guys that are very, very capable that maybe haven't had the production or experience that we all think they need to have
Starting the season with a transfer quarterback has become common for the Sooners in recent years. Out of the last six quarterbacks to start the season at Oklahoma, four have been transfers or walk-ons.
Three of them (Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray and Jalen Hurts) went on to become starters in the NFL.
Offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby wouldn't go as far as to analyze Gabriel's draft chances but had high praise for his signal caller.
"I do think he's going to have production that's unmatched," Lebby said. "I think he's going to have experience that's unmatched. I think he's going to have leadership ability that's unmatched. From those three standpoints, I think he's got a great future and has the ability to go do this for a long time."
Gabriel and the Sooners will open the season against UTEP on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.
Tarik Masri is a sports reporter for The Transcript covering OU athletics and area sports. You can reach him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org