For the second time this offseason, USC has been involved in a move that sent shock waves throughout college football. Last time it was Lincoln Riley – one of the best coaches in the nation – opting to leave Oklahoma to be the head coach at USC. This time it’s Caleb Williams – one of the top quarterbacks in college football – landing with the Trojans. On Tuesday, Williams announced he would transfer from Oklahoma to USC.
The arrival of Williams gives the Trojans one of the top quarterbacks in college football, a signal-caller capable of winning the Heisman Trophy and a jump-start to Riley’s rebuilding effort in Los Angeles. With Williams officially in, USC has joined the discussion to be a College Football Playoff contender in 2022.
How big of a get for USC is Williams? In the discussion of best quarterbacks in college football for ‘22, the sophomore-to-be is potentially a top-five signal-caller. Outside of Alabama’s Bryce Young and Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud, the rest of the top tier is up for grabs. Williams could be an All-American next fall. It’s rare to add a difference-maker of Williams’ caliber, but the new transfer and eligibility rules have allowed teams to quickly reload or find a star at a position if a couple of options don’t work out on the recruiting trail.
Landing Williams is a key part of USC’s plan to flip the roster after a disappointing 4-8 mark in 2021. The transfer portal was a crucial part of Riley’s plan to rebuild for ’22, as the program’s offense has already landed receivers Terrell Bynum, Brenden Rice and Williams' former Oklahoma teammate Mario Williams, along with running backs Travis Dye and Austin Jones. The Trojans also return a good chunk of the offensive line next fall. With an improved supporting cast, Riley’s scheme and now Williams in the mix, USC’s offense is poised to jump into the mix as one of the best in college football. And it's not only just the offense. With the Trojans landing an elite quarterback, contending for the Pac-12 South and a playoff spot is very much in reach.
In 11 games with Oklahoma as a true freshman this past season, Williams threw for 1,912 yards and 21 touchdowns and four interceptions and added 435 yards and six scores on the ground. His 8.1 yards per play ranked as the highest mark of all Big 12 quarterbacks. The Sooners had eight completions of 50-plus yards last year – seven came from Williams as basically a part-time starter.
The announcement of Williams' transfer to USC doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Even though the rumor mill gave LSU, Auburn, Wisconsin, and others a chance, reuniting with Riley always seemed to be the most likely destination. The Washington, D.C., native committed to Oklahoma and Riley during the recruiting process, with a future eye to the NFL after the program put Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray and Jalen Hurts at the next level in starting roles.
Getting Riley to Los Angeles was one gigantic piece in USC's efforts to turn around a program that should be competitive for a playoff spot on an annual basis. A quick reload through the portal and a quarterback transfer doesn’t guarantee success in '22, but the Trojans are already well on their way to being a top-25 team. Building schemes and the overall team culture is a work in progress and could be throughout the upcoming season. However, Riley was easily one of the top hires in this year's coach carousel and his arrival is already paying off in a big way for USC.
There's work to be done all throughout the program and in terms of on-field performance. Utah enters spring practice as the favorite in the South Division. However, the Trojans have significantly closed the gap over the last two months. The combination of Riley and Williams will be a tough out for the rest of the Pac-12 and adds to what should be an intriguing '22 season on the West Coast.