Senior Bowl director gasses up Dillon Gabriel after disappointing first year at Oklahoma

Dillon Gabriel, Oklahoma Sooners. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
Dillon Gabriel, Oklahoma Sooners. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images) /

Jim Nagy expects big things out of Dillon Gabriel in what will be his final season at Oklahoma.

After a few good years at UCF, Dillon Gabriel had a rough first season with the Oklahoma Sooners.

To be quite frank, everyone on Oklahoma had a rough year. It was the worst season OU has had since the late John Blake was their head coach. Bob Stoops and Lincoln Riley could never… As for Brent Venables, he needs to show athletic director Joe Castiglione that he can do it. Otherwise, somebody else will be leading the Sooners into the SEC. The good news is Gabriel is coming back!

One person who is very high on Gabriel heading into this season is Jim Nagy. The executive director of the Reese’s Senior Bowl compared the southpaw Hawaiian quarterback to, you guessed it? Another southpaw Hawaiian quarterback in Tua Tagovailoa! It is not just his handedness or where he hails from that does it for Nagy. It is his twitchiness and quick release.

Gabriel is not a first-round talent like Tagovailoa was coming out of Alabama, but he will get drafted, and will probably get drafted pretty high. He has banked a ton of starts in college already.

Let’s discuss what Gabriel could be at the next level, and what he needs to do in Norman in 2023.

Jim Nagy hyping up Dillon Gabriel ahead of big season for Oklahoma Sooners

Not to say it will pop under Venables in year two at Oklahoma, mostly because he inherited a blue-blood program that wasn’t in complete disarray when he came over from Clemson, but I would anticipate for the Sooners to be better than 6-7. Frankly, they have to be… Since Gabriel will be entering at least his fourth year as a college starter, he has no excuses not to put it all together.

The biggest thing he has going for him is it will be another year in Jeff Lebby’s offensive system. Although the Oklahoma offensive coordinator feels like he is a year away from being a serious head-coaching candidate, he will get his one day, sooner rather than later. Should Gabriel, Lebby and Venables put it all together, Oklahoma can win double-digit games and play for a Big 12 title.

From there, how Gabriel plays in key moments will help elevate, or depreciate, his draft stock. No, he is not going to be a first-round pick like Caleb Williams and Drake Maye certainly are, nor is he a possible candidate to crack the top-32 like Quinn Ewers, J.J. McCarthy and Michael Penix Jr. are. To put it simply, he could be this draft’s version of Jake Haener or Stetson Bennett IV. That ain’t bad!

Overall, Gabriel’s arm talent, touch, toughness and demeanor will get him drafted, and probably invited to the Senior Bowl. However, Tagovailoa’s slender frame and injury-prone nature could do more damage to Gabriel’s draft stock than people even realize. He is not related to him, but we did see similar things happen when Derek Carr came out of Fresno State because his brother busted.

Ultimately, if OU returns to form and is a top-four team in 14-team Big 12, then Gabriel will have probably had plenty of success to get a Senior Bowl invite and be heading to the NFL combine. How he interviews, as well as other intangibles could improve his draft stock. For now, you are looking at a day-three pick, probably a guy worthy of taking a flier on in the fourth or fifth round.

Let’s just say the winner of Red River will be in a terrific spot to be returning to DFW in December.

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