One of the highest profile transfers in the history of the transfer portal is Caleb Williams. Lincoln Riley was hired from Oklahoma to USC which started rumors speculating Williams would follow suit. Williams formally entered the transfer portal on January 4th. Numerous schools emerged as potential contenders with USC, LSU and Wisconsin fighting for his services. Williams ultimately chose to follow Riley to sunny southern California to play for the Trojans. He is expected to be one of the best quarterbacks in the country with the potential to be a Heisman finalist which is why he is number 16 in our series 99 Things.
Williams started last season as the backup to Spencer Rattler. The Sooner’s offense struggled with Rattler at the helm so Riley made a switch at quarterback. Williams saw his first extended action against Texas when Oklahoma was down 35-17. Williams led the Sooners to a comeback victory over the Longhorns by a score of 55-48. Riley had no choice but to continue starting Williams for the remainder of the season. Williams went 5-2 as a starter while throwing 21 touchdowns and only six interceptions. He also rushed for 442 yards and six touchdowns in his freshman season. His success resulted in Rattler transferring out of the program to South Carolina even though he would eventually leave Oklahoma as well.
The season had plenty of flaws as Williams was not perfect in his first season. Baylor and Iowa State gave Williams trouble in back to back weeks. Baylor only allowed Williams to complete nine passes and throw for 142 yards. The Bears also intercepted him twice which helped them beat the Sooners. The following week Oklahoma played Iowa State. The Cyclones only allowed him to complete eight passes and throw for 87 yards. Williams was able to end the season on a high note beating Oregon in their bowl game while also throwing for 272 yards and three touchdowns. He performed well in his first collegiate season but USC will need improvements from him in order to take the Trojans to a championship level.
NFL scouts are already drooling over the potential of drafting Williams one day. He is an incredible decision maker and had the arm talent teams dream of having on their team. Williams completed over 64% of his passes last season which is outstanding considering he was a true freshman. He also has the NFL arm strength to stretch the field and make every throw. He is calm in the pocket and knows when to use his legs. Williams has stated he wants to work on staying in the pocket more. He wants to become more patient and allow his receivers more opportunities to become open before looking to scramble and make a play on his own. Mastering the decision making between waiting and scrambling can take years to develop but Williams seems to be well on his way to getting there.
The Trojans likely have a few tune up games before the season starts to get difficult. USC opens the season at home against Rice which will allow Riley and Williams to get their first game jitters out of the way. Stanford hosts USC in week two but they have been less than impressive over the past few seasons. Fresno State is waiting in week three which has the potential to be a dog fight. Jake Haener will be looking to upset USC and he is a quarterback who could accomplish it. The Trojans will also travel to Oregon State, Utah, Arizona and UCLA while Notre Dame, Colorado, Cal and Arizona State will make the trip to Los Angeles. USC will finish the season hosting UCLA in their annual rivalry game. Expectations are high for Williams and Riley but the tandem might actually achieve these goals. Is winning the Pac-12 too ambitious for their first season?