Caleb Williams has 'realistic' chance to reach new heights in 2023, repeat as Heisman winner
Caleb Williams will seek to become just the second player in college football history to win back-to-back Heisman Trophies when USC opens the 2023 campaign.
To date, only one player — Ohio State’s Archie Griffin — has been able to capture two Heismans during their college career. It’s something media and fans alike discuss every time someone wins the most prestigious award in sports and then returns for another season, and some players have come close, but none have been able to accomplish what Griffin did.
Florida’s Tim Tebow came close in 2008, winning the award as a sophomore in 2007 and then returning as a finalist in 2008 but finishing third.
Williams, USC’s standout quarterback who broke nine school records during his first season in Los Angeles, might be the best opportunity we’ve seen for a repeat winner since.
Williams returns a bevy of offensive weaponry at USC, and he’ll be playing in a system run by Lincoln Riley that produces Heisman winners at a remarkable rate.
The question will be asked all offseason, all preseason, and throughout the 2023 campaign if USC is once again in the hunt for a College Football Playoff spot. Can he do it? That was one of several questions ESPN’s staff of writers sought to answer recently.
David M. Hale had this to say on Williams’ chances:
The answer on repeat Heisman winners should be “no” by default, but in this case … there might be a realistic chance. Typically the Heisman winner sets a bar so incredibly high, he falters under the weight of his own lofty expectations, but for Williams, it feels like there may still be new heights left to explore. He was excellent last season, of course, but so much of what he did came in spite of a battered backfield, a shaky defense and entirely new surroundings at USC. Moreover, USC faltered in its biggest games. It’s not unreasonable to think that Williams and the Trojans could be better in 2023 than they were in 2022. Still, the Heisman voters have been loath to vote for a player twice, so it remains an uphill battle. Should Williams take even a small step back, the list of alternatives is long — Maye, Jordan Travis, Michael Penix Jr., Bo Nix, among others — but if a repeat winner is ever going to happen again, Williams may have as good a shot as anyone.
Chris Low wrote that USC will have to win a Pac-12 title for Williams to repeat:
In Lincoln Riley’s offense, the quarterback is always going to put up big numbers, and in what will be Williams’ third season with Riley, Williams is looking at another one with Heisman Trophy-esque numbers. He won it a year ago even with the Trojans losing twice to Utah and not winning their conference championship. That speaks to the kind of gaudy numbers he put up, but it’s difficult to see him winning a second straight Heisman unless USC wins the Pac-12 championship in 2023 and gets into the College Football Playoff.
Paolo Uggetti is less than convinced the pathway exists, offering up Michigan running back Blake Corum as an alternative favorite:
The odds say no. Recency bias and history are not the only factors working against Williams this coming season. Given that USC finished a remarkable turnaround season with a bowl loss to Tulane that exposed the flaws they’d had all season, next year will be a test in improvement across the board. Even if Williams will likely improve, the bar has been set extremely high. It feels like next season sets up nicely for Corum to make a run at the award and break the quarterback streak. Corum chose to return to Ann Arbor for one more season, and at the risk of uttering the phrase “unfinished business,” Corum could be the player who gets the Wolverines over the hump.
Williams threw for 4,537 yards and 42 touchdowns while only being intercepted five times. He added another 10 touchdowns on the ground. His yardage total, his passing touchdowns, and his total touchdowns all set single-season USC records. If he wants to win another Heisman, he might have to break his own records.
Of course, doing that would surely put USC in the thick of the CFP race again. And that would probably give Williams plenty of reasons to book another December trip to New York City.