The Fourth of July has brought some recruiting fireworks to Norman with top quarterback Caleb Williams announcing his commitment to Oklahoma. Williams is currently the highest-rated high school signal caller to commit to the Oklahoma in Lincoln Riley’s tenure, joining Spencer Rattler as the second No. 1-ranked QB to pledge to the Sooners in three cycles.
So what makes Williams the current top quarterback prospect?
CALEB’S ARM TALENT SETS HIM APART
Williams has impressed in the settings we’ve seen him thus far- junior (and sophomore) video, in-person live games, national and regional camps, college camps and high school 7-on-7 tournaments.
At 6-foot.1.5, 209 pounds, Williams owns a natural, whippy throwing motion. He’s able to get the ball out quickly with zip in the short to intermediate areas of the field from within the pocket. Williams also shows good timing with his wide receivers and can locate the ball within tight windows.
As for his downfield arm strength, here he uncorks a well-placed pass that travels 63 yards in the air.
Williams can throw from within structure with the best, but his arm dexterity and ability to deliver from multiple platforms and while under duress sets him apart from the other top passers in the 2021 cycle at this stage.
Not many high school quarterback prospects can pull off this type of zip and location on a cross-body throw in the midst of a sprint.
RARE RUSHING ABILITY
Williams combines the arm talent with some of the best rushing ability we’ve seen from a quarterback in the 2021 cycle. As a junior, he rushed for 838 yards and 18 touchdowns in 11 games. He tests as a top athlete, posting a 4.57 second 40-yard dash, 4.12 second short shuttle and 36.3 inch vertical jump at The Opening’s D.C. Regional.
But let’s not get hung up solely on his 40 time. Williams’ athleticism is functional and shows up on the field on designed runs and scrambles. In watching some of Gonzaga’s games against top competition, Williams often looks like the best athlete on the field, at any position.
While Williams has shown he can to outrun defenses in the open field, his ability to force missed tackles in confined quarters is even more unique. Williams runs with outstanding body lean with his shoulders over his feet, making it tough for defenders to get a read on his intent. Combine that with high-level lateral agility and a dangerous dead leg move and you have a runner who is very tough to bring down in the open field.
That type of elite elusiveness is all over Williams’ video and isn’t something you can see in camps. To put how hard he is for opposing defenses to tackle into perspective – he forces 27 missed tackles in a highlight video barely over three minutes in length.
Today’s game places a higher value on a quarterback’s ability to make plays outside the structure of an offense more than ever before. Being able to deal with a pressure and create big plays when things break down is an x-factor skill that separates some of the sport’s best signal callers from the rest of the pack.
Williams shows early signs of being advanced in this regard. The arm talent and elusiveness feed into his creativity when the play breaks down and. Over the past two years we’ve seen the D.C. standout turn nothing into something with regularity in 11-on-11 settings.
In 11 games as a junior, Williams accounted for 37 touchdowns to four interceptions while playing five teams who finished in MaxPreps’s top 100 national ranking.
He’s showed some big-game heroics as early as his sophomore season, leading Gonzaga to a stunning comeback win in the a league championship against DeMatha, hitting a Hail Mary as time expired.
Williams has also performed well at every event he’s attended over the past year, being named 247Sports’ Alpha Dog at the Under Armour Future 50 in January and the MVP of the Elite 11 last week.
FIT IN NORMAN
Lincoln Riley has made his bones in molding his scheme to fit the skill set of his starting quarterback. Oklahoma has fielded some of college football’s top offenses with Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray and Jalen Hurts – three very different quarterbacks. With that said, Williams provides an ideal blend of abilities to match what Riley likes to do on offense.
Williams brings a versatile threat to Riley’s forward-thinking running game with the ability to rush between the tackles on designed runs (like we saw from Hurts and Murray) in addition to extending the play and picking up yards on scrambles. The downfield arm and quick trigger also allow for the opportunity to stress defenses vertically.
It’s tough and not fair to compare a high school prospect to two No. 1 picks and another second rounder, but from a pure skill and versatility standpoint, the entire playbook should be open when Williams is behind center.
We’ve had a fairly large sample size and exposure to Williams to this point in the process, especially considering the lack of spring evaluation opportunities this cycle. However, it is worth noting several key evaluation points remain.
Under normal circumstances the senior season carries significant weight with quarterback evaluations and it will again in 2021, pending the seasons are played. We’re evaluating these quarterbacks at key points in their developmental arcs and everyone doesn’t progress at the same rate. For example, CJ Stroud was a newly-minted four-star and just starting to accumulate big offers at this time last year, before having a huge senior year and finishing as a five-star. Williams is fairly developed early on and we’ve seen several other quarterbacks in the 2021 cycle continue to improve. The 2021 cycle is deep at quarterback and there are perhaps more contenders for the top spot than in recent years.
We’ll hopefully continue to see more of this deep and talented 2021 quarterback crop into their senior campaigns. Moving forward, we’d like to see Williams continue to improve on his operating efficiency as a high school quarterback. He’s a skill set evaluation to this point with his unique combination of athleticism and arm talent, but does not have the statistical resume of typical top-ranked signal callers. Regardless, Williams has positioned himself as the top-ranked quarterback in the 2021 cycle heading into the fall and adds another big-time talent to Oklahoma’s quarterback room.