Whether he intended to or not, Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley has created a full-blown media circus surrounding his team’s quarterback situation between Spencer Rattler and Caleb Williams.
The fifth-year coach has refused to name a starting quarterback for Saturday’s game vs. TCU, even after Williams was called into action off the bench to spur the Sooners to a comeback victory over No. 21 Texas. He completed 16 of 25 passes for 212 yards and two scores — adding another 66-yard touchdown run — to help the team overcome a 28-7 first-quarter deficit and win 55-48 in the waning seconds of the game.
It was quite the debut for the true freshman, whose only collegiate action prior to Saturday came when his team wasn’t relying on him to win the game.
Now, Williams finds himself as the starter of Riley’s offense and the next great quarterback to take tutelage under the quarterback guru. That he had to replace Rattler, the incumbent starter, against his team’s biggest rival will only add to his growing legend in Norman.
That said, Saturday’s game vs. the Longhorns wasn’t the first time Williams was forced into action on the big stage. He had already built quite a name for himself in high school, helping him to become one of the nation’s top recruits and garnering the attention of myriad Power 5 programs.
With that, Sporting News breaks down everything you need to know about Williams as he takes the reins of Lincoln’s offense:
Williams was the top quarterback in his class (until he wasn’t)
Williams didn’t exactly come out of the woodwork to lead Oklahoma to victory over Texas. The five-star talent was not only the Sooners’ top recruit in the class of 2021, but also the No. 1 quarterback in the class of 2021 and top offensive skill position player, per 247Sports’ Composite rankings. To compare, Rattler was Oklahoma’s second-rated prospect of the 2019 class (behind Jadon Haselwood) and the No. 11 overall player.
Williams lost his status as the top quarterback of his class after Quinn Ewers decided to forgo his final year of high school to enroll early at Ohio State. Ewers, previously the No. 1 recruit in the class of 2022, retained his ranking when ranked among the 2021 prospects. That affected Williams’ rankings among the 247Sports servers, dropping him to the nation’s No. 2 quarterback and No. 7 overall recruit.
He skipped his final season at Gonzaga College High School
Like Ewers, Williams skipped his final year of high school — though not necessarily by choice. The advent of the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the 2020 football season at Gonzaga College High School, a private school in Washington, D.C. That means, prior to Saturday’s game vs. Texas — and not including some garbage-time play earlier in the 2021 season — Williams’ last meaningful football came as a junior in 2019.
That season, he threw for 1,770 yards and 19 touchdowns, rushing for 838 yards and 18 more scores.
He won his high school state championship on a Hail Mary
The year before his junior season, Williams led Gonzaga College High to a 9-3 record and its first Washington Catholic Athletic Conference title since the 2002 season. Williams quarterbacked the Eagles all the way to the WCAC championship game, where they faced rival DeMatha Catholic High School, ranked No. 1 in the WCAC, at season’s end.
It appeared as if the Stags would win a fifth WCAC title in six seasons before Williams, then a sophomore, scored three of his six touchdowns in the final minutes of the game. That included a quarterback keeper to cut the score to 36-33, then another touchdown pass with 29 seconds remaining to give his team a 40-36 lead. But his team’s ensuing squib kick was returned for a touchdown, giving DeMatha the lead again at 43-40 with only 15 seconds remaining.
With time left for only one more play, Williams launched what was officially a 53-yard Hail Mary on the final play of the game — from his own 41 — to give his team the 46-40 victory.
So, you could say Williams already has plenty of experience in high-pressure situations.
He won the Elite 11 Finals MVP in 2020
Williams didn’t play high school football in 2020, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t still competing. Indeed, he competed in the 2020 Elite 11, winning Finals MVP honors over such quarterbacks as Brock Vandagriff (Georgia), Drake Maye (North Carolina), Kyle McCord (Ohio State) and more.
With that, Williams joined other previous Finals MVPs such as C.J. Stroud, Rattler, Justin Fields, Tua Tagovailoa and more.