Oklahoma QB Gabriel adjusts after transferring from UCF

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NORMAN, Okla. – Dillon Gabriel won’t let a higher profile or fancy new surroundings change his low-key approach.

He has had plenty of success as a college quarterback — he passed for more than 8,000 yards and 70 touchdowns at Central Florida while leading some of the nation’s most productive offenses.

After transferring to Oklahoma, he will now be the starting quarterback for a program that has produced Heisman Trophy winners Jason White, Sam Bradford, Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray at the position in the past 20 years.

Gabriel is aware of what Oklahoma quarterbacks have meant to the sport, and he’ll get a reminder on Saturday when Mayfield’s Heisman statue is revealed at Heisman Park across from Memorial Stadium.

“I don’t take this position lightly,” the 6-foot left-hander said. “I know it’s a privilege to be in this position.”

Gabriel values each step on this journey, and he said an important one will be Saturday’s spring game. He’ll play some on both the Red and White teams.

“I think a lot of things have been going a million miles per hour since I got here, right?” he said. “Just trying to be focused. Trying to keep the main thing the main thing. But kind of being on the back end of spring ball, I’m super grateful to be here. I love this place.”

The pressure will be on. He will be expected to keep the Sooner offense rolling now that coach Lincoln Riley and quarterback Caleb Williams have left for USC and quarterback Spencer Rattler has transferred to South Carolina. He is ignoring what outsiders say and focusing on what he has relied on to get this far – hard work.

“I think as of right now, I really haven’t done anything on the field,” Gabriel said. “So, you know, walking around, I’m just the same old dude.”

Gabriel’s mentality has made a positive impression on new coach Brent Venables.

“He has those special qualities,” Venables said. “He’s very humble. He’s not loud and braggadocious and making any kind of proclamations. He doesn’t need to. He does it (gains respect) with his work, his competitiveness, his toughness. He obviously has street credibility with the players because of what he has done at a high level.”

Gabriel played for then-UCF offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby in 2019, and the Knights’ offense ranked second nationally in yards per game (540.5) and fifth in points per game (43.4). Gabriel’s transition at Oklahoma has been smoother now that Lebby is the Sooners’ offensive coordinator after a successful run at Ole Miss.

“I think it goes way back from a trust standpoint,” Gabriel said. “I really trust him, love playing in his offense — the way he’s able to strategically use people and put them in good positions to go play and win a lot of ballgames while scoring a lot of points.”

Because Lebby’s offense hasn’t changed much, Gabriel has been able to steer his teammates.

“I would say Dillon knows the playbook better than everybody,” offensive lineman Anton Harrison said. “This is his offense. He helps us a lot. We need him and talk to him a lot with the playbook and the tempo. Sometimes, he can call it out for us because he knows it so well. It’s been great having him back there at quarterback because he can help us and teach us.”

Still, there have been subtle changes that Gabriel has had to pick up this spring.

“I think everyone continues to evolve – verbage, terminology — whatever you want to call it,” Gabriel said. “There will forever be new plays within everyone’s offense year to year. There have been challenges to myself, but we’ll continue to get back into it. It’s definitely helped having prior knowledge, for sure.”

Gabriel has prioritized building a rapport with his receivers. A priority has been connecting with Marvin Mims, a speedster who caught five touchdown passes last season and averaged 22 yards per catch.

“He’s one of the best I’ve been around,” Gabriel said. “Speed. All-around receiver. Very physical, and usually from speed guys, you don’t really see that. So that’s something very new. Just all around, man, he goes up and gets it. He’s extremely talented.”

Vick, Fitzgerald and Suggs among stars on College Football Hall of Fame ballot for 1st time

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Michael Vick, Larry Fitzgerald and Terrell Suggs are among the college football stars who will be considered for induction to the Hall of Fame for the first time this year.

The National Football Foundation released Monday a list of 78 players and nine coaches from major college football who are on the Hall of Fame ballot. There also are 101 players and 32 coaches from lower divisions of college football up for consideration.

Vick, who led Virginia Tech to the BCS championship game against Florida State as a redshirt freshman in 1999, is among the most notable players appearing on the ballot in his first year of eligibility.

Vick finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1999. He played one season of college football before being drafted No. 1 overall by the Atlanta Falcons in 2001. Vick’s professional career was interrupted when he served 21 months in prison for his involvement in dog fighting.

Fitzgerald was the Heisman runner-up in 2003 to Oklahoma quarterback Jason White. He scored 34 touchdowns in just two seasons at Pitt.

Suggs led the nation in sacks with 24 in 2002 for Arizona State.

The 2024 Hall of Fame class will be chosen by the National Football Foundation’s Honors Court and announced in January. Induction into the Atlanta-based hall is the following December.

Alabama freshman DB Mitchell says he wasn’t sure he’d get to play again after arrest

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Alabama defensive back Tony Mitchell said he feared his football career was over after his arrest on a drug charge.

The Crimson Tide freshman said in a video posted Sunday on social media that he knew “something much bigger could have happened.”

A judge in Holmes County, Florida, sentenced Mitchell to three years of probation with a fine and community service on May 24 after Mitchell pleaded guilty to a charge of possession of more than 20 grams of cannabis.

“I didn’t know if I’d be able to play football again, but I continued to work out and stay close with the Lord and those who love me unconditionally,” Mitchell said. “During those times, it helped me to keep my mind off it. But when I was by myself looking at social media, what everybody had to say about it, it just felt like it happened again.

“I didn’t sleep at night.”

He was suspended from the Alabama team following the arrest, but Mitchell’s father, Tony Sr., posted on Facebook last week that the defensive back had been reinstated. An Alabama spokesman declined to comment on Mitchell’s status.

Tony Mitchell Sr. shared his son’s video on Facebook, saying it was filmed during a talk to youth.

“I was doing things I knew I shouldn’t to try to fit in,” the younger Mitchell said, “but not everybody’s your friend.”

Mitchell, who is from Alabaster, Alabama, was a four-star prospect and the 15th-rated safety in the 247Composite rankings.

He had been charged in March with possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell after a traffic stop when authorities said he drove over 141 mph (227 kph) while trying to evade deputies in the Florida Panhandle. A deputy had spotted Mitchell’s black Dodge Challenger traveling 78 mph (125 kph) in a 55 mph (88 kph) zone on a rural highway north of Bonifay.

He also received 100 hours of community service and paid a fine of $1,560.

Mitchell and a passenger were both charged with possession of marijuana with the intent to sell or deliver, according to a Holmes County Sheriff’s Office arrest report. The other man also was charged with carrying a concealed gun without a permit.