Anonymous Pac-12 coaches dish on USC's Caleb Williams
USC won the offseason, and it has translated to a 6-0 start to Lincoln Riley’s first season in Los Angeles. The biggest get from the transfer portal: quarterback Caleb Williams, and he has largely lived up to the billing.
Williams ranks fourth in the Pac-12 in pass yards, third in quarterback rating, and second in yards per play. He has 14 touchdowns and only one interception so far this year — one of only seven FBS quarterbacks with at least 150 pass attempts already and one or no interceptions. He ranks 11th nationally in Total QBR.
The explosive plays have been there. The highlight plays have been in abundance. Williams has opposing coaches calling him one of the best running backs in the country, fawning over his ability to extend plays with his legs and evade pressure.
ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg spoke with a few other defensive assistants in the Pac-12 to get a sense of how they view the start to Williams’ season. He offered them anonymity to speak freely.
The response was fairly interesting:
“So dangerous out of the pocket,” a Pac-12 coach said. “Running, throwing, creating.” Still, some Pac-12 coaches want to see more from Williams, especially after he struggled against Oregon State (180 pass yards, 44.4% completions) in a game USC was extremely fortunate to win. “I watch him and I see a good player, but he’s not unbelievable,” a Pac-12 defensive coordinator said.
The Trojans are unbeaten at the midway point of the year, two games clear already of last season’s win total. USC continues to win games despite the pass game in recent weeks feeling a little off.
Williams has a bevy of options around him to distribute the ball to, and that has certainly helped ease the transition, to a new team. He entered the year as a Heisman Trophy favorite, and maybe there have been players elsewhere who have surged into the national spotlight in ways Williams hasn’t yet, but he’s been tasked with winning a game on his own once already and he came through.
The Trojans beat Oregon State in Corvallis on Sept. 24, a game that surely would have gone differently with another quarterback calling the shots for the Trojans. Williams led an 11-play, 84-yard scoring drive at the end that gave USC the game-winning touchdown.
He connected with Jordan Addison for a 21-yard score with 1:13 on the clock, a throw that Riley said later could only be made by a handful of other quarterbacks in all of college football.
Saturday offers a chance for Williams and USC to really stake their claim as the top team in the league. They face No. 20 Utah at 5 p.m. PT on FOX.