“With their past at quarterback, I honestly felt like it was for me,” he said on a live stream produced by CBS Sports, with fireworks behind him. “With what Coach [Lincoln] Riley’s been able to do, I just want to learn and hopefully get to the next level.”
It would be difficult for a prep quarterback to head into his senior season more decorated than Williams is. This past week he traveled to Nashville for the Elite 11 quarterback finals and won the MVP award. (Past winners include Justin Fields and Tua Tagovailoa.) He already was the top-rated prospect when he showed up Monday, and then he dazzled with three days of strong play.
When the week began, he was the No. 4 prospect in 247sports.com’s 2021 composite rankings, and now he’s a contender to finish at No. 1.
Given a choice of any school in the country, which Williams has, no program has proved to be a better destination for quarterbacks than Oklahoma. Over three seasons, Riley developed Baker Mayfield into the Heisman Trophy winner in 2017 and the No. 1 draft pick in 2018. Mayfield’s successor, Kyler Murray, needed only one season to repeat both of those honors. In 2019, Riley added Alabama graduate transfer Jalen Hurts, who had the best season of his career with a completion percentage of 69.7 and 53 total touchdowns.
Williams said the success of those quarterbacks was a big factor in his decision. “From Baker to Kyler to Jalen Hurts, they all had different body types, different game plans to go through to get ready to win the game the next week,” he said.
The keys to the Oklahoma offense now belong to Spencer Rattler, who was also an Elite 11 MVP. Behind Rattler, the depth chart sets up well for Williams. His college career is more than a year away, but it appears he could be at least a backup as a freshman and a starter in 2022 or 2023.
The only school with an answer for Oklahoma’s quarterback development was LSU, where Joe Burrow produced one of the best seasons in college football history last fall, snapping the Sooners’ streak of Heisman winners and No. 1 picks. But when celebrated passing-game coordinator Joe Brady left for the NFL’s Carolina Panthers, the Tigers fell behind in their pursuit.
Maryland, the local option, made the final pitch June 27. Coach Michael Locksley has made strides on the recruiting trail, and he made a compelling case with his background as Tagovailoa’s offensive coordinator. But in the end, there was no stopping the union of the game’s top prep quarterback and its top quarterback whisperer.
“With Oklahoma, they have the proven track record, but they also have a coaching staff that didn’t have any turnover on offense,” Steve Wiltfong, 247sports.com’s director of recruiting, said last week. “Lincoln Riley’s the play caller, and he’s built a tremendous relationship with Caleb.”
At 6-foot-2 and 209 pounds, with a strong arm and the athleticism to operate outside the pocket, Williams has always looked the part of a prototypical quarterback prospect. A strong career at Gonzaga, in perhaps the best high school football league in the country, has added to his résumé. As a sophomore, in 2018, he threw the Hail Mary that won the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference championship game against DeMatha. He led the Eagles to an 8-3 finish last fall, throwing for 1,770 yards and 19 touchdowns and running for 838 yards and 18 scores.
Before his announcement, Gonzaga used Facebook Live to broadcast a video conversation led by Coach Randy Trivers. Williams was emotional as his teammates explained in four words or less what it was like to play with him.
If there is high school football in 2020, he will be the consensus best player in the Washington area.
He now has a college choice that fits that profile.