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Welcome to SEC Unfiltered, the USA TODAY NETWORK's newsletter on SEC sports. Today, SEC columnist Blake Toppmeyer takes over:
The chip on Spencer Rattler's shoulder is as big as ever, and it is plenty salty.
The South Carolina quarterback apparently doesn't subscribe to the idea of letting bygones be bygones. From the sounds of it, he remains stung about how his time ended at Oklahoma. You'll recall Lincoln Riley benched Rattler in favor of Caleb Williams during the 2021 season. Rattler transferred to the Gamecocks after the season.
"The situation happened how it happened. Obviously, I was salty about it," Rattler said recently on the Barstool Sportsbook podcast. "You know, I'm a competitor. I want to be out there playing. We were winning games, like I said. We were undefeated at the time when I got benched."
True. The Sooners went 6-0 in Rattler's six starts in 2021. But, that omits a key part of the story. In Rattler's final start that season, he was 8-of-15 with an interception and a fumble against Texas, and the Sooners trailed 35-17 in the second quarter when Riley turned to Williams.
Williams rallied Oklahoma to victory, and that was the beginning of the end of Rattler's time in Norman.
Enough about the past, though, because Rattler's presence as a fifth-year senior at South Carolina makes the Gamecocks particularly relevant in the SEC East.
"You live and you learn. God sent me here for a reason," Rattler said on the podcast.
South Carolina learned last season that it's at its best when Rattler is slinging passes without guardrails. After running backs MarShawn Lloyd and Christian Beal-Smith suffered injuries last season, the Gamecocks were required to lean more heavily on Rattler.
Turns out, that was a good development. Their ground game was lousy anyway, and Rattler caught fire in November to spur the Gamecocks' upsets of Tennessee and Clemson.
I'm not advocating South Carolina eliminate handoffs, but Rattler and wide receiver Antwan Wells are the ticket to USC ruffling feathers in the SEC (and against Clemson again) in 2023. Of course, Rattler would benefit from better pass protection. Pass protection has remained a persistent bugaboo the past few seasons.
When Rattler signed with Oklahoma in 2019, few would have expected him to be in college as a fifth-year senior. He was a ballyhooed five-star prospect. Rather than join a crowded field of quarterbacks in the NFL Draft this spring, though, Rattler now gets one last chance to show OU what it's missing.
And if he's drafted in 2024, can the Sooners claim him as one of theirs?
"I hope not," Rattler said on the Barstool Sportsbook podcast.
Still salty, but all is well that ends well for Rattler. Worked out just fine for Riley and Williams, too.
For Oklahoma? Not so much.
Rattler can take a little joy in that.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY NETWORK: Spencer Rattler says OU football can't claim him for 2024 NFL Draft