Former Oklahoma quarterback Caleb Williams announced his transfer destination on Tuesday. Unsurprisingly, the former five-star freshman who usurped the Sooners’ starting job from Spencer Rattler is following Lincoln Riley to USC.
Williams and USC both made the news official on Tuesday, with the former tweeting out an announcement complete with a USC photo shoot and cameos from Trojans fans Snoop Dogg and Will Ferrell.
— Caleb Williams (@CALEBcsw) February 1, 2022
Shortly after, USC officially cemented his status as a member of the team’s 2022 roster:
The ✌️ you’ve been waiting for. pic.twitter.com/rgIi2sN6VW
— USC Trojans (@USC_Athletics) February 1, 2022
It’s a decision many expected from the outset of Williams’ decision to enter the transfer portal, though Wisconsin made a surprising late bid to secure the second-year quarterback. Ultimately, he chose to head to Los Angeles in lieu of Madison.
Williams had no shortage of suitors when it came to the portal, but his ultimate decision had as much to do with his football future as it does his football present. With that, Sporting News breaks down Williams’ decision to continue his career at USC:
Why did Caleb Williams transfer to USC?
Williams offered a glimpse into his decision to transfer to USC in his announcement video. The voiceover at the beginning spells it out plainly: “When you have as many players as they have coming into the NFL, at all positions, I don’t think there’s any way to really combat it.”
That question ultimately is what Williams’ decision boiled down to: Where could he go that would offer him the best opportunity to develop into an NFL-caliber quarterback? Williams’ father, Carl, told Pete Thamel of ESPN as much when his son entered the transfer portal:
“Professional development. We want Caleb to be ready to play when he becomes a pro,” Carl Williams said. “You go to college to get prepared for your career. His chosen career path is professional football. We want him to be prepared for when that time comes.”
To that end, it made sense that Williams would follow Riley to USC. He chose to play for the coach, who — at the time Williams was a high school phenom and college freshman — happened to be at Oklahoma. Williams wanted to continue that working relationship with the coach after the latter left Norman, Okla., for Los Angeles in November.
As far as business decisions are concerned, it makes sense on multiple fronts: Williams is already familiar with Riley’s playbook, and can more easily transition to USC because of that. In one year under Riley, Williams completed 136 of 211 passes (64.5 percent) for 1,912 yards and 21 touchdowns to four interceptions. He also added 79 rushes for 442 yards (5.6 yards per carry) and an additional six touchdowns.
Riley also has a proven track record of nurturing top college and NFL quarterback talent. He produced three consecutive Heisman Trophy finalists — two winners and a runner-up finisher — from 2017-19 in Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray and Jalen Hurts, respectively. Mayfield and Murray went No. 1 overall in the 2018 and ’19 NFL drafts. Hurts was a second-round selection by the Eagles in 2020. All three are currently NFL starters.
Williams can step in and immediately be eligible to take over as the Trojans’ starting quarterback, thanks to the NCAA’s one-time transfer rule and the fact no one on USC’s roster can reasonably be expected to challenge him for the role.
Kedon Slovis and Jaxson Dart, who split time as the starter in 2021, transferred to Pitt and Ole Miss, respectively. Only one other quarterback, Miller Moss, attempted a pass for the Trojans: He went 8 of 13 for 74 yards and a score.
Moreover, Williams likely will be entrenched as the Trojans’ quarterback by the time Malachi Nelson — the No. 2 overall player in the 2023 class — enrolls at USC. That is assuming Nelson, a Southern California native, upholds his commitment to Riley and USC.
Who will take over for Williams at Oklahoma?
The most likely answer is Dillon Gabriel. The former three-year UCF standout announced his decision to play for the Sooners on Jan. 3.
They say life’s a gamble like rolling the dice… DIMETIME pic.twitter.com/8xGNDWjaR3
— Dillon Gabriel (@_dillongabriel_) January 4, 2022
Gabriel flipped his transfer decision from UCLA to Oklahoma — a move that keeps him from competing against Riley and Williams in Los Angeles and allows him to reunite with former Golden Knights offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby, who is in the same position at Oklahoma.
Gabriel combined to complete 554 of 914 passes (60.7 percent) for 8,037 yards and 70 touchdowns to 14 interceptions in three years at UCF.