Oklahoma quarterback Caleb Williams finally commits to USC, following Lincoln Riley

Oklahoma quarterback Caleb Williams scrambles during a game against Oklahoma State.
Oklahoma quarterback Caleb Williams announced he is transferring to USC, following coach Lincoln Riley jumping from the Sooners to the Trojans.
(Sue Ogrocki / Associated Press)
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The most coveted quarterback in college football is following his former coach to USC in a major transfer move that’s bound to shift the balance of power out west.

Caleb Williams, a former top recruit and the undisputed top passer in a rollicking college transfer market, made it official via a video posted on his Twitter account Tuesday he left Oklahoma to join Lincoln Riley in Los Angeles, giving the Trojans new coach a familiar star quarterback to build around as he ushers in a new era at USC.

The decision reunites Williams, the No. 7 overall prospect and No. 2 quarterback in the 2021 class, with the coach who first convinced him to join the Sooners. Under Riley’s tutelage, Williams thrived as a freshman at Oklahoma, supplanting entrenched starter Spencer Rattler by midseason and immediately establishing himself as a future star. But since Riley left suddenly to take over at USC in late November, speculation over whether his star quarterback might follow continued to swirl, even as Williams stuck around through December, leading the Sooners to an Alamo Bowl win.


That speculation spiked when Williams entered the transfer portal in early January, referencing “sudden changes this season [that] sent shockwaves through Sooner nation.” Sensing the significance of his possible exit, Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione and new coach Brent Venables even issued an unusual public plea on social media for Williams to stay in Oklahoma.

Caleb Williams scrambles during Oklahoma's win over Oregon in the Alamo Bowl on Dec. 29.
(Eric Gay / Associated Press)

The weeks-long delay that followed that announcement would only stir the college football world into further frenzy. Blurry photos circulated of what appeared to be Williams in a USC jersey. Amateur sleuths combed through student directories. Rumors of other possible destinations swirled.

But the allure of continuing his career under Riley, who coached three current starting NFL quarterbacks, proved too strong for Williams, whose father, Carl, told Yahoo Sports that “professional development” would be the most important factor in his son’s decision.

The freshman quarterback visited Los Angeles in early January , taking in Rams and Lakers games. By the next morning, USC’s future plans at quarterback had suddenly shifted.

Jaxson Dart, the young quarterback previously believed to be the heir apparent at the position, entered the NCAA transfer portal, presumably clearing the way for Williams.


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A person familiar with Dart’s decision told The Times shortly after his entry into the portal that a potential return to USC was still on the table for the young quarterback. But the likelihood of Williams’ arrival and presumed ascent up the depth chart obscured Dart’s path enough for his family to consider other options.

Dart had no shortage of suitors as perhaps the most coveted quarterback available outside of Williams. He visited Brigham Young, Mississippi and Williams’ previous school, Oklahoma, before deciding to join former Trojans coach Lane Kiffin at Mississippi.

Just a few weeks earlier, Dart was viewed as the future of the position at USC. Instead, he’s the latest in a line of heir apparent Trojans passers to be suddenly replaced. Kedon Slovis, who started 25 games over three seasons, left in late December for Pittsburgh after it became clear USC planned to move forward with Dart instead.

Those plans didn’t last long.

But with Williams now in the fold, the Trojans will emerge from a transformative offseason with a new coach, a new system and a new quarterback, renewing hope in a program that took a nightmarish turn during a 4-8 campaign. Williams is the 12th transfer to join USC since Riley arrived.

Coach Lincoln Riley talks with Oklahoma quarterbacks Caleb Williams and Spencer Rattler.
Coach Lincoln Riley, center, talks with Oklahoma quarterbacks Caleb Williams (13) and Spencer Rattler (7) before the start of a game on Nov. 20, 2021, in Norman, Okla.
(Alonzo Adams / Associated Press)

As the Trojans came unraveled down the stretch last season, Williams was surging to the cusp of stardom. The freshman stepped in for Rattler in the second half of Oklahoma’s rivalry matchup with Texas in October and engineered an epic Sooners comeback. Williams started the next seven games, finishing his freshman season at Oklahoma with 1,912 yards passing and 21 touchdown throws to just four interceptions. He added 435 yards and six touchdowns on the ground, proving himself as an electric dual threat.


At USC, he will continue where he left off running Riley’s offense at Oklahoma. But that offense won’t look anything like the group USC had last season.

Drake London, the Trojans’ top wideout last season, is expected to be a first-round NFL draft pick, while USC’s top running back, Keaontay Ingram, declared for the draft. And Vavae Malepeai, the Trojans’ second-leading rusher, ran out of eligibility.

USC lost another of its promising young pass catchers when freshman tight end Michael Trigg announced he was entering the transfer portal. In all, the Trojans have seen 17 players enter the portal since the end of the 2021 season.

But Williams is hardly the only offensive talent USC mined from the portal over the last month. Riley has already entirely remade the wide receiver room, adding three top transfers, including Mario Williams, a former highly sought recruit who emerged as one of Caleb Williams’ top targets at Oklahoma last season.

USC didn’t stop there, adding two Pac-12 Conference starting backs in Oregon’s Travis Dye and Stanford’s Austin Jones and a starting offensive lineman in Virginia’s Bobby Haskins.

That flood of transfers should slow as the deadline for movement approaches early this month. But already, the Trojans boast the top transfer class in all of college football, according to 247 Sports.


The jewel of that group is undoubtedly Williams, a coveted quarterback whose arrival offers yet another signal that USC, with Riley at the helm, could finally be on its way back.

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