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USC’s Caleb Williams practicing more patience in the pocket

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The mystifying second when Caleb Williams introduced his arrival to the school soccer plenty got here on a designed fourth-down run final October. Already trailing Texas 28-7, Oklahoma was by itself 34-yard line, determined for some form of spark. So on fourth and one, Lincoln Riley despatched in his true freshman and requested him to make a play together with his legs.

Such performs appeared to come naturally to Williams, who spent his youth soccer days as a operating again earlier than rising into the highest dual-threat quarterback within the class of 2021. However inside a split-second of the snap, the opening collapsed in entrance of him.

Three Texas defenders surrounded Williams within the backfield, however the freshman stayed affected person. He slid all of the sudden to his left, deftly dodging one, then lower proper, shaking free from one other. As he danced free, the Texas protection parted earlier than him. Williams sped for a 68-yard landing run and by no means seemed again, ultimately main Oklahoma to a surprising comeback that may cement his place atop the Sooners offense.

It was that superlative dashing skill that first set Williams on a path towards stardom final season, as he adopted within the footsteps of different dual-threat quarterbacks who got here earlier than him in Riley’s offense, like Kyler Murray and Jalen Hurts.

But at USC, where Williams now resides, there’s no such precedent. Whereas the fashionable dual-threat quarterback has turn into commonplace throughout school soccer, USC has continued to march forth with a parade of pocket passers.

Not for the reason that 1991 season, when Reggie Perry held the reins, have the Trojans entrusted their offense to a quarterback who may very well be categorized as a twin risk. That season wound up an abject catastrophe, as Perry threw three touchdowns with 12 interceptions, and USC gained simply three video games. Perry finally transitioned to security after the season.

This system’s historical past earlier than Perry isn’t precisely wealthy with succesful operating quarterbacks, both. Rodney Peete, who led the Trojans from 1985 to 1988, boasts 290 ushing makes an attempt, probably the most by a USC quarterback, however solely 415 yards dashing. Pat Haden had 514 yards dashing throughout his three seasons as quarterback earlier than handing over the offense to Vince Evans, who completed with 533.

No fashionable USC passer has ever surpassed 300 yards dashing in a season. Pete Beathard got here closest from 1961 to 1962, which nonetheless counts as probably the most prolific dashing stretch for a Trojans quarterback. Beathard gathered 290 yards on the bottom in each seasons, ending his three-year profession with 672 and 14 dashing touchdowns.

Williams is nearly sure to shatter these statistical boundaries as a sophomore. Few school quarterbacks had been extra electrical as ballcarriers final season, when Williams racked up 435 yards dashing and 6 touchdowns by a tantalizing mixture of velocity and brute pressure.

“He’s been in a position early in his profession to have the ability to break some tackles and make some guys miss, which generally when a quarterback will get out, there might be numerous house, there’s alternative for giant performs,” Riley mentioned. “For a quarterback, he’s obtained fairly first rate top-end velocity. Had a number of lengthy runs for us final 12 months, explosive runs. He’s a man the place, defensively, he’s powerful to account for. Having a man on him is one factor, however generally getting him to the bottom is a little bit harder.”

Eradicating sacks from the equation, no school quarterback ran for extra yards per try final season (8.7) than Williams. 9 of his designed runs went for 15 yards or extra. Six of these went for greater than 40 yards.

Lots of his finest runs, just like the 68-yard landing in opposition to Texas, got here after contact. He pressured 22 missed tackles, in accordance with Professional Soccer Focus, and averaged 4.95 yards per try after contact. Solely two different quarterbacks bested that mark final season. Certainly one of them, Liberty’s Malik Willis, is anticipated to be the highest passer picked on this month’s NFL draft.

There’s no cause to suppose that these tendencies will change at USC.

“If you’ve obtained a man that may scramble the way in which he does and might take off and run and transfer the chains together with his legs when issues break down, or generally all people’s form of lined and also you don’t just like the learn and it creates a little bit house there and you are taking off operating the ball, it’s such a tough factor for the protection,” USC offensive coordinator Josh Henson mentioned.

Over 5 seasons at Oklahoma, that wrinkle performed a significant position in Riley’s offense. Sooners quarterbacks accounted for a mean of 143 dashing makes an attempt per season over that stretch.

Even Baker Mayfield, who may hardly be categorized as a twin risk, ran 97 instances for 311 yards in Riley’s first season as coach. At USC, that efficiency would’ve cemented him as probably the most prolific operating quarterback for one season.

That title is nearly sure to belong to Williams after his sophomore season. This spring, the quarterback has been targeted on operating much less, somewhat than extra.

Wanting again on his freshman season, Williams mentioned he realized there have been moments “the place I used to be too fast to scramble.”

“I began to apply that final 12 months particularly, sitting within the pocket a little bit bit extra, trusting the fellows which might be defending me as a result of that’s their job and I consider in them, I belief them,” Williams mentioned.

As Riley sees it, that intuition to rely much less on his legs is the suitable subsequent step in his growth.

“I don’t need to harness these guys, but when folks’s plan when Caleb performs is to attempt to preserve him within the pocket, then he’s gotta be capable of beat that,” Riley mentioned. “And he’s totally able to beating that. That’s all the time a part of the development of a younger quarterback. Most guys study an increasing number of when to remain in there and when to not. He’s getting a really feel for that, he’s pushing himself on it.”

That might imply fewer scrambles this fall, however for USC, a quarterback able to scrambling in any respect will take some getting used to.