OU football camp takeaways: How Dillon Gabriel is 'focusing on getting better'

The Oklahoman
NORMAN — Players often described their football team as a family, but Dillon Gabriel has a different perspective.
The redshirt senior is back for his second season as OU's starting quarterback. And after leading the Sooners to a 6-7 (3-6 Big 12) record last season, Gabriel feels far more comfortable this time around.
Why is that it?
"It's kind of like when you get a girlfriend," Gabriel said Tuesday. "For three months, you're still learning each other. But once you get to a year or a year and a half, you kind of loosen up a little. You just get to know them."
Things have gotten pretty serious between Gabriel and OU.
In addition to being the face of the Sooners' offense, Gabriel is being leaned on as a leader more than ever before. It's a lot of responsibility for Gabriel, but he feels better prepared than he was at this time last year.
OU quarterback Dillon Gabriel went 230-for-367 passing for 3,168 yards and 25 touchdowns last season.
"With our relationship on and off the field, just being around them more (helps)," Gabriel said of his teammates. "Knowing how we communicate, certain routes they like and how to throw them. ... I think with time, that can only benefit everyone."
Gabriel enters this upcoming season with room for personal improvement.
The UCF transfer threw for 3,168 yards and 25 touchdowns last season, which earned him the Big 12 Offensive Newcomer of the Year award.
Still, Gabriel posted a career-low quarterback rating of 154.4. OU also only converted 40.5% of its attempts on third and fourth down, which ranked second-to-last in the conference.
"(I'm) just focusing on getting better," Gabriel said. "Really start at the bottom and work your way up and learn from your mistakes. ... That's all you can do."
It helps that Gabriel already has a strong relationship with OU offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby.
Oklahoma offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby during a practice for the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) football team in Norman, Okla., Friday, Aug. 4, 2023.
Lebby served as UCF's offensive coordinator in 2019, which was Gabriel's freshman season. And after reuniting in Norman last season, the two have developed an even stronger bond this offseason.
"A lot of trust," Gabriel said of his relationship with Lebby. "It's something he values in his quarterbacks, letting them be comfortable in the system and confident in the plays when we go out there. So I can appreciate that from that perspective."
A lot is going to be asked of Gabriel this upcoming season.
But the veteran quarterback has settled into his relationship with the Sooners, and he hopes that'll translate into success on the field this season.
"Winning football games," Gabriel said. "That's all that matters. Take each game at a time. Taking care of business. And then letting the rest take care of itself."
OU sixth-year defensive lineman Rondell Bothroyd has been playing college football for longer than most players on OU's roster.
Rondell Bothroyd's love for the game
Rondell Bothroyd is sometimes tempted to just phone it in.
The sixth-year defensive lineman has been playing college football for longer than most players on OU's roster. And as the Sooners go through their fall practices in the unforgiving Norman heat, there's always the temptation to not give maximum effort.
"Just because I'm older, it sometimes feels like I want to walk through stuff and kind of go through the motions," Bothroyd said.
But Bothroyd doesn't give in to the temptation thanks in large part to Miguel Chavis.
The OU defensive ends coach is practically solar powered, getting more energetic as the temperature rises. And that constant source of energy has rubbed off on Bothroyd.
"I think loving the game a little bit more," Bothroyd said when asked how Chavis has helped him. "He's like relighting the fire in me. ... It can get confusing. It can get tough. (But) he loves the game."
Bothroyd hopes to bring his own energy to the Sooners this upcoming season.
The veteran defensive linemen recorded 30 tackles (eight for loss) and six sacks last season at Wake Forest before transferring to OU on Jan. 8.
The Sooners would welcome some production up front from Bothroyd. They only recorded 13 sacks in Big 12 play last season, which ranked last in the conference.
But Bothroyd is confident his group can have a larger role this time around, especially with Chavis motivating it every step of the way.
"Coach Chavis and Coach (Todd) Bates, they demand the best out of us every day," Bothroyd said. "Regardless of how you feel and regardless of what's going on, so I think we're relentless."
Justin Broiles' new role
OU head coach Brent Venables provided some clarification on Justin Broiles' new role with the team.
Broiles graduated from OU last season after spending six years with the program. The safety signed with the Chicago Bears on April 30 as an undrafted free agent before getting waived on May 8.
Broiles then returned to OU, although his role is limited since he isn't an official coach.
“Justin can just encourage guys right now," Venables said. "There are certain rules. He can be an encourager and an effort kind of guy. ... He's learning how to be a coach."
Despite being limited, Broiles has found ways to contribute during fall camp.
He can often be seen motivating players and running around the field in football cleats.
"He comes every day with the same intensity," fifth-year defensive back Justin Harrington said of Broiles. "He's kind of held back a little bit just because of his description, so he can't really say too much. But just the relationship that we have for the three years that I've been here, it's the same. ... He brings the energy."

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