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Devy Spotlight: Caleb Williams, QB, USC

Caleb Williams is a top devy asset and followed Lincoln Riley to USC. How will he fare going forward and how does his game translate to the NFL?

Spencer Rattler led off 2021 as the Oklahoma Sooners starting quarterback and heralded freshman Caleb Williams as the backup. The Sooners won their first five games, and Rattler was solid, completing more than 70% of his passes and throwing ten TDs against four INTs. 

The Week 6 matchup against hated rival Texas was a different story. Rattler started slow, completing 8 of 15 passes with an interception as the Longhorns built a 28-7 first-quarter lead. Head coach Lincoln Riley turned the keys over to Williams, and the freshman responded with a 66-yard TD run, sparking the offense to an eventual comeback win. 

The rest of the season showcased what Williams was capable of. A dynamic runner, Williams gave the Sooners’ offense an explosive element they had been missing. Williams quickly vaulted up devy draft boards and is now a consensus first-round pick. 

RECRUITMENT

Williams played his high school ball at Gonzaga High School and hails from Washington, D.C. He was the seventh-ranked overall prospect per the 247Sports Composite and the second QB. Offers rolled in from Clemson, Florida, Alabama, and Oklahoma – the school he ultimately chose. 

Williams would follow in the lineage of high-profile QBs under guru Lincoln Riley and chose to transfer this offseason. He followed Riley to USC and will play in 2022 as a Trojan.

STATS

Passing Table
PassPassPassPassPassPassPassPassPass
Year School Class Pos G Cmp Att Pct Yds Y/A AY/A TD Int Rate
*2021OklahomaFRQB1113621164.519129.110.2214169.6
CareerOklahoma13621164.519129.110.2214169.6
Rushing & Receiving Table
RushRushRushRush ScriScriScriScri
Year School Conf Class Pos G Att Yds Avg TD Plays Yds Avg TD
*2021OklahomaBig 12FRQB11794425.66794425.66
CareerOklahoma794425.66794425.66

After taking over versus Texas, Williams started the next seven games, guiding the Sooners to victories in five of them. He completed 64.5% of his passes for 1,912 yards, 21 TDs, and only 4 INTs. Williams added 442 yards and six scores rushing. 

Film Study

He’s a Runner

All the strengths in Williams’ game are possible due to his danger as a runner. The first play on the clip above is the long run I spoke about in the intro, the play where Williams “arrived” and then didn’t look back. The play breaks down, and he is so dangerous as a runner. 

Other plays in the highlights display this as well. It’s not just a danger to take off and run. The threat of the run is sometimes more dangerous. It causes the defense to account for another element and can lead to big plays. Williams scrambles and can make big throws on the run. Sometimes, they aren’t pretty, but the defense is playing on its heels, and he gets away with them. 

The Arm Talent

Williams has a strong arm, and his ability to make throws on the run is awe-inspiring. The throw below is all arm, and he can deliver a frozen rope to the sideline while on the run and to where only the WR can get it. 

I love how Williams pushes the ball downfield and isn’t afraid to take shots. On this throw, he can quickly set his feet; I love the quick release and get the ball over 40 yards in the air to his receiver downfield. 

I don’t need to say anything about this. Just wow. And this was his first college game!

Needs Work

Understanding the Game

All of the things Williams needs to work on fall in this category. He loves the big play and seems primed to make them. But his understanding and many little things need to be worked on. 

Williams doesn’t make throws with anticipation well and doesn’t often find checkdowns. He often will lock on one or two receivers downfield and scramble around to make a YOLO throw. It works, but it’s something he will see less and less in the NFL. 

The kid has a cannon but needs to work on touch to different levels of the field, and it will help his accuracy. He needs to throw receivers open. Anticipate where the holes in the defense will be and throw it to where the receiver can run after the catch. I noticed this in his high school tape, and it will need to continue to be a priority for him to learn going forward.  

Conclusion

Williams is a top devy asset and likely a top-five pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. There are a few small things to worry about regarding how he will translate to the NFL, but he has enough tools to work with to be an enticing prospect. He doesn’t have the same arm as Lamar Jackson and isn’t quite as dynamic, but he could have the same impact when he reaches the league. 

Williams will likely have a monstrous 2022 and 2023 with USC, and his value will increase. If there is a “buy-low” window, it is now. Williams’ value is enormous already, as a top-ten devy asset, but it’s only getting higher.

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