Five things you should know about Dillon Gabriel, OU football’s newest quarterback



NORMAN — When UCF quarterback Dillon Gabriel announced in mid-December that he would transfer to UCLA, OU fans let out a sigh of relief.

Gabriel’s decision, many Sooners fans felt, signaled that Caleb Williams was likely staying with the Sooners.

But Monday, hours after Williams announced he was entering the NCAA transfer portal, Gabriel reversed course and announced he would join the Sooners.

While Williams said he is still considering remaining at OU, Gabriel figures to play a big role for the Sooners in 2022.

Here are five things to know about OU’s newest transfer quarterback:

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UCF quarterback Dillon Gabriel answers a question from a reporter after a game against Boise State on Sept. 2 in Orlando, Fla.

UCF quarterback Dillon Gabriel answers a question from a reporter after a game against Boise State on Sept. 2 in Orlando, Fla.

1. Coming off injury

Gabriel was off to a hot start this season for UCF, throwing for more than 300 yards in each of his first two games.

Week 3 didn’t go quite as planned, with Gabriel throwing for 188 yards and three touchdowns with an interception against Louisville on Sept. 17.

Gabriel ran for a game-tying touchdown with less than 90 seconds remaining, then had a chance to give the Knights the lead for the first time since the second quarter after an interception with less than 30 seconds to go that gave UCF the ball just outside the Louisville 40.

But Gabriel’s first-down pass bounced off a Knights receiver and into the hands of Louisville’s Jaylin Alderman, who took the interception 66 yards for a touchdown.

On a desperation final play of the game, Gabriel suffered a broken left clavicle when he was hit during a series of laterals as UCF tried to keep the game alive.

UCF coach Gus Malzahn expressed hope Gabriel could return during the season, as Gabriel’s injury did not require surgery, but Gabriel ultimately announced in late November that he would transfer instead.

Gabriel finished his UCF career with 8,037 yards and 70 touchdowns with 14 interceptions through the air. He ran for 372 yards and eight touchdowns while adding one receiving touchdown — in that loss against Louisville.

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2. The unusual lefty

Gabriel would be the first left-handed quarterback the Sooners have had in quite some time.

The last time, though, it worked out fairly well.

OU’s last left-handed quarterback was Josh Heupel, who arrived as a relatively unheralded junior college quarterback in 1999, shortly after Bob Stoops took over as the Sooners’ head coach.

In two seasons as OU’s starting quarterback, Heupel threw for 7,066 yards and 50 touchdowns. In his second season, 2000, he led the Sooners to an undefeated, national championship season and finished as the Heisman Trophy runner-up.

Heupel was Gabriel’s head coach at UCF in 2019 and 2020.

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3. Knowing Lebby

Gabriel is plenty familiar with his new Sooners offensive coordinator.

Jeff Lebby, who was one of Brent Venables’ first hires after Venables replaced Lincoln Riley, was UCF’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in 2019 when Gabriel was the Knights’ starting quarterback.

Gabriel threw for 3,653 yards and 29 touchdowns that season with seven interceptions.

Gabriel was fourth in the Football Bowl Subdivision with 15,48 yards per completion that season.

After Josh Heupel departed to take the Tennessee job following the 2020 season, Gabriel was one of several Knights to go to social media to publicly support Lebby’s hiring as head coach.

Lebby ultimately remained at Ole Miss for his second season as offensive coordinator there under Lane Kiffin while UCF hired Gus Malzahn instead.

In 2020, Gabriel’s quarterback coach was another Sooner alum — Joey Halzle.

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4. Hawaii rarity

Gabriel grew up in Hawaii, where he starred for Mililani High School, about 20 miles outside of Honolulu on Oahu.

Mililani also produced another UCF star quarterback — McKenzie Milton.

Gabriel set a Hawaii state record with 9,948 passing yards during his high school career.

Gabriel becomes just the second Sooners football player from Hawaii, joining defensive end Tony Han, who was from Honolulu and played for the Sooners in 1989-90.

Former OU offensive line standout Phil Loadholt was born in Honolulu but played high school football in Fountain, Colorado.

Hawaii has developed a reputation in recent years for developing standout quarterbacks. In addition to Gabriel and Milton, the state has also produced former Alabama star Tua Tagovailoa and Marcus Mariota, who won the 2014 Heisman

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5. Family lineage

Gabriel isn’t the only star quarterback in his family.

His father, Garrett, starred for Hawaii in 1989-90, setting then-Rainbow Warriors’ records for both single-season and career passing yards.

Though both of those records have since been shattered, Gabriel remains most well-known among Hawaii fans for leading the Rainbow Warriors to a pair of upset victories over rival BYU in 1989 and 1990.

Both times, he outdueled BYU star and 1990 Heisman Trophy winner Ty Detmer.

In 1989, he threw for 440 yards and four touchdowns in a 56-14 blowout of the No. 18 Cougars.

The next year, he threw for 359 yards and three touchdowns, adding a rushing touchdown also, to lead Hawaii to a 59-28 win over No. 4 BYU.

Dillon Gabriel’s name even comes from football.

Garrett named his middle son after former Bengals running back Corey Dillon, he told MidWeek magazine in 2014.

Dillon’s older brother, Garrison, was named after longtime NFL running back Garrison Hearst.

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: OU football: What to know about Dillon Gabriel, Sooners’ QB transfer


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