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.”

Florida shakes up secondary after dismal game at Tennessee

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida coach Billy Napier is shaking up his secondary after the Gators allowed 349 yards passing – including 247 of those on eight plays – in a loss at Tennessee.

Safety Trey Dean, a fifth-year senior who has started 32 games and played in 54, is out with what Florida is calling a “lower leg injury.” But no one would be surprised if Napier was quietly benching Dean after he made two mental errors against the Volunteers that resulted in 70- and 45-yard gains and set up touchdowns.

Freshman Kamari Wilson will replace Dean and make his first college start Sunday against Eastern Washington.

Cornerback Jaydon Hill will join Wilson in the starting lineup. Hill, a third-year sophomore, will make his first start since 2020. He missed the 2021 season with a torn knee ligament. He impressed Napier and his new staff in the spring but sat out preseason camp with another knee injury.

Hill will replace sophomore Avery Helm, who also struggled against the Vols.

“You talk about what he’s been through from an injury perspective,” Napier said following practice Wednesday. “Jaydon was one of the better players that we had on our team in spring practice. I was very impressed . It’s no surprise to me. He showed pretty quickly here that he’s very capable. I’m excited to watch him play.”

Georgia transfer Jalen Kimber, a former five-star recruit, is now listed as a third-team cornerback. Kimber played just 11 snaps in Knoxville a week after he returned an interception for a touchdown in a 31-28 win against South Florida.

“I like to say we try to eliminate the bad football,” Napier said. “Talking about mental errors, misalignments, poor communication, bad fundamentals and techniques, bad decision-making within the play. … We have a laundry list of things that we need to eliminate each week.

“Last week’s game, I thought we were really close, but there’s 12 or 15 plays in the game where Florida is beating Florida. We’ve got a smart group here. I think they’re very aware of what the issues are, and I think they’re working hard to address those issues.”

Pac-12 looking stronger at top after early-season losses

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When Oregon got throttled by top-ranked Georgia and Utah lost at Florida, it appeared as though the Pac-12 was headed toward another College Football Playoff miss.

One week into the season and two of the conference’s top teams had already failed big early tests.

Flash forward three weeks and it seems the Pac-12 might be in good shape after all.

The Ducks and Utes bounced back with big wins and the top of the conference looks strong, with four teams in the top 15 for the first time since 2016.

It’s still early, but the Pac-12 is putting itself in position to get a team through to the CFP for the first time since Washington in 2016-17.

A look at how the top of the Pac-12 is stacking up headed into the first weekend of October:

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

The No. 6 Trojans (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12) seem to have quickly returned to glory in their first season under Lincoln Riley. The former Oklahoma coach brought quarterback Caleb Williams with him to Southern California and they have thrived through the first four games.

Williams has thrown for 1,054 yards and nine touchdowns, adding 100 yards and two more scores rushing. USC’s defense has been opportunistic, leading the nation with 11 interceptions while tied for the lead with 14 takeaways.

The Trojans survived a scare against scrappy Oregon State over the weekend to start 4-0 for the first time since 2012. USC has to play at Utah on Oct. 15, but avoids Washington and Oregon this season.

UTAH

The 12th-ranked Utes opened the season with a tough road loss at The Swamp in Florida, but have won three straight lopsided games.

Outside of a costly interception late against the Gators, quarterback Cam Rising has been sharp, throwing for 954 yards and 10 TDs. Utah (3-1, 1-0) has a physical defense and is third in the FBS, allowing 132.8 yards passing per game.

The Utes also have a veteran team that won the Pac-12 championship last season. The bad news: tight end Brant Kuithe, their leading receiver, is out for the season with a knee injury.

Utah plays Oregon State this weekend and has tough games against USC and Oregon still on the schedule.

OREGON

The Ducks’ playoff chances took an immediate hit with a 49-3 loss to reigning national champion Georgia in their opener.

No. 13 Oregon (3-1, 1-0) bounced back with a decisive win over a good BYU team and outlasted previously undefeated Washington State 44-41 last week.

The Ducks were no match for the Bulldogs in any aspect – few teams are – but have averaged 51.6 points the past three games. Oregon’s biggest weakness is its pass defense. The Ducks are allowing 72.5% of passes to be completed, third worst in the country.

Oregon’s biggest tests left in the season will come in back to back games against Washington and Utah.

WASHINGTON

The Huskies have made a quick turnaround in their first season under coach Kalen DeBoer.

Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. has been superb now that he’s healthy, throwing for an FBS-best 1,388 yards and 12 TDs with one interception. No. 15 Washington (4-0, 1-0) picked up a solid home win against Michigan State and has 15 sacks this season, including eight against Stanford last week.

The Huskies play their first road game at undefeated UCLA on Saturday and have to face Oregon on Nov. 12.

UCLA

After winning at Colorado for the first time since 2014 last Saturday, the Bruins (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) have their longest winning streak since winning the first eight games in 2005.

UCLA had a hard time getting past South Alabama and opened its Pac-12 schedule with a win against the struggling Buffaloes.

The Bruins will find out how good they are over the next three weeks, a brutal stretch that includes home games against Washington and Utah before heading to Eugene to play the Ducks on Oct. 22.