Rattler Ready: Ex-Oklahoma QB excited for South Carolina debut

ALEX HICKS JR./USA TODAY NETWORK
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COLUMBIA, S.C. — Former Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler is anxious and excited, confident and poised – and more than ready to take the field with his new team at South Carolina.

After helping the Sooners win the Big 12 Conference title in 2020, Rattler lost his starting job midway through last season and became one of the top passers seeking a new home last December.

Rattler found it with the Gamecocks and can’t wait for the home opener against Georgia State.

“I’ll be live for the first time in a long time,” said Rattler, who started Oklahoma’s first six games before Caleb Williams took over. “But I’m ready for that, ready to get hit once or twice.”

Rattler, who’s thrown for 4,514 yards, 39 touchdowns and 12 interceptions the past two years, has said he didn’t really understand the switch. He had won 13 straight as a starter when Williams got the call with Oklahoma trailing rival Texas.

He’s worked hard to clear his head and regain the style that had him as one of the leading Heisman Trophy contenders before last season.

“I’m not thinking about last season,” Rattler said.

Rattler entered South Carolina last January and stayed low-key in bonding with teammates and learning to run the attack led by offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Marcus Satterfield.

Rattler took pages of notes, Satterfield said, and showed a willingness to be coached, despite his past success. And when Rattler is in the huddle, there’s a confidence that’s unlike other quarterbacks.

“He brings our entire team confidence,” Satterfield said. “He’s there to compete and give our team a chance to win.”

Rattler believes he’s prepared well in the offseason to be the best he can be. He’s played and excelled in front of crazy, loud crowds before and can’t wait to see how his new SEC team’s fans measure up.

As far as facing Georgia State, Rattler hasn’t mapped out specific individual goals for a successful debut. “We just want to go out there and execute every drive, every play,” he said. “That’s what it comes down to. For us, we just want to focus on us.”

Rattler is part of strong group of experienced transfers for the Gamecocks, who are looking to improve on last year’s 7-6 mark in coach Shane Beamer‘s first season: Running back Christian Beal-Smith, who ran for 1,336 yards and 12 touchdowns at Wake Forest the previous two years; Rattler’s former Oklahoma teammate tight end Austin Stogner also transferred to the Gamecocks; and South Carolina’s new receivers include Antwane “Juice” Wells Jr., who broke James Madison marks with 1,250 receiving yards and 15 TDs.

Wells was impressed by Rattler’s easy demeanor and regular-guy approach to the season. “He’s been consistent from day one,” Wells said of his new QB1. “He’s kept his head down and just kept getting better and better.”

Georgia State coach Shawn Elliott knows his defense will have its hands full trying to slow down Rattler.

South Carolina needed four starting quarterbacks, including grad assistant Zeb Noland, last year due to injuries and transfers. Having consistency behind center with Rattler should bolster the offense.

“Their quarterback game is going to be a little more enhanced,” said Elliott, who spent 2010 through 2015 at South Carolina as offensive line coach and interim head coach midway through that final season after Steve Spurrier‘s abrupt departure.

“I think he’s a quarterback who can make all the throws across the field,” Elliott continued. “So they’ll probably take a little more opportunity to go down the field.”

Rattler’s not saying much about South Carolina’s game plan. He’s just counting the days until he’s back in control of a Power Five offense.

“Running out that tunnel with team, coaches, everyone,” Rattler said. “Hopefully, get that anxiety out of the way, not anxious, just fun, ready-to-go vibes. It’s going to be fun.”

WVU RB Donaldson in concussion protocol, out for Baylor game

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) West Virginia running back CJ Donaldson is in concussion protocol and will miss next week’s home game with Baylor after he was injured in a loss to Texas, coach Neal Brown said Tuesday.

Donaldson remained on the ground after he was tackled on a short gain in the third quarter of Saturday’s 38-20 loss to the Longhorns. His helmet and shoulder pads were removed and he was carted off the field on a stretcher. After the game he was cleared to travel home with the team.

“He’s recovering,” Brown said. “There is a strict return-to-play (policy) that we have to follow here and I’m zero involved in it. All I do is ask the question. They don’t even start the return-to-play until they’re symptom free.”

Donaldson, a 240-pound freshman, leads the Mountaineers with 389 rushing yards and six touchdowns, with an average of 6.9 yards per carry.

West Virginia (2-3, 0-2 Big 12 Conference) is idle this week and hosts Baylor (3-2, 1-1) next Thursday, Oct. 13.

Taulia Tagovailoa says he visited brother, Tua, over weekend

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COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Maryland quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa was able to visit his brother, Tua, last weekend after the Terrapins’ game against Michigan State, he said Tuesday in his first comments to reporters since Tua left the Miami Dolphins’ game against Cincinnati last Thursday with a frightening head injury.

Taulia played in Maryland’s win over Michigan State on Saturday but was not made available to the media afterward. He said Tuesday he was able to go to Florida and spend some time with his brother, who suffered a concussion four days after taking a hit in another game but was cleared to return.

“He’s doing good, everything’s fine,” he said. “My biggest thing was just seeing him and spending as much time as I can with him. I came back Sunday night.”

Tagovailoa said he appreciates the support for his brother.

“My brother’s my heart. He’s someone I look up to, someone I talk to every day,” he said. “It was just a hard scene for me to see that.”

Tagovailoa said he was in constant contact with his mother about his brother’s situation, and he was finally able to talk to Tua on Friday night.

“I really just wanted to go there and just spend time with my family, hug them and stuff like that,” Taulia Tagovailoa said. “But he told me he’s a big fan of us, and he’d rather watch me play on Saturday. … After that phone call, I was happy and getting back to my normal routine.”

Tagovailoa indicated that his brother’s injury didn’t make him too nervous about his own health when he took the field again.

“I guess when that happens to someone like my brother, or when anything happens to one of my family members, I don’t really think of how it will be able to affect me,” he said. “I just think of: `Is he OK? How’s he doing?”‘

Although it was a short visit to Florida, he said he and Tua made the most of their chance to be together.

“I just wanted to make sure he’s healthy and stuff, which he is,” Taulia Tagovailoa said.