Caleb Williams able to face stress head on as USC makes an attempt to engineer historic one-year turnaround

LOS ANGELES — Caleb Williams was made for this second. It goes past the promise, the duty, absolutely the understanding of his new soccer life within the nation’s second-largest media market.

His understanding of his place within the SoCal panorama comes the moment he shakes your hand. It is greater than a shake; he grasps your hand, holding it for a second to make sure eye contact is held.

“It’s a pleasure assembly you,” mentioned USC’s quarterback to a stranger who launched himself.

Perhaps an excessive amount of is fabricated from the gravity of that second, however the level is Williams made it his second. He managed the change for these temporary seconds. A small pattern measurement, sure, but it surely suggests the Oklahoma switch has a mindset that can assist him in controlling his future environment as nicely.

Williams, coach Lincoln Riley and scores of different USC transfers stroll into this season with swagger. Whether or not they prefer it or not, all of them joined this system to win instantly.

“I do not know what a honeymoon appears to be like like,” Riley mentioned. “I did not get one on the first place. I do not anticipate to have one right here.”

If USC wins sufficiently big, it will likely be historic. To go from 4-8 — this system’s worst file in 31 years — to a Pac-12 championship would mark one of many greatest turnarounds within the historical past of the sport.

Hawaii went from 0-12 in 1998 to 9-4 in 1999, an 8.5-game enchancment that’s nonetheless the NCAA file for a single-year turnaround. We’re speaking concerning the Trojans making an attempt one thing of that scale given how far down they had been final season and the way excessive their goals are this season.

“I believe, with the teaching, that USC undoubtedly has an opportunity to be a title winner,” mentioned June Jones, coach of that Hawaii crew. “An important factor to me is the quarterback transferred with the coach.”

Riley’s flipping of the roster would have been much less notable had not Williams form of led the way in which. He did not determine to go away Oklahoma for USC till late January, shortly earlier than the semester began. However with Williams in hand, the switch migration was reputable and historic. Roughly half of USC’s 85 scholarship gamers are new.

“The deciding issue for me, truly, was how acquainted I used to be with all of the individuals coming right here,” Williams mentioned. “Teaching employees, nutritionists, everyone is aware of Coach Riley. I used to be very aware of their households. Very shut. I did not need to really feel like a freshman going to a brand new place, having to study a brand new offense. I, for positive, did not need to go to a brand new faculty to be in that place … I wished to maintain progressing.”

In its historical past, USC is often USC when it has a firestarter quarterback. The highest six passers in program historical past have mixed for 2 Heisman Trophies, a pair of nationwide championships and a minimum of a share of six Pac-12 titles.

The place Williams falls on that record is to be decided. For all of the hype surrounding him, the sophomore has began seven video games. Oklahoma followers referred to as for him largely as a result of he wasn’t Spencer Rattler. 247Sports had him ranked eighth total within the Class of 2021, second amongst quarterbacks.

It turned out, as a freshman, Williams might play. In his temporary time main the crew, he threw 21 touchdowns and rushed for 442 yards. Nonetheless, within the remaining 4 video games, both defenses began to determine him out or Williams hit a wall. Perhaps slightly of each. He accomplished solely 57% of his passes and threw three of his 4 interceptions throughout these 4 contests.

“Caleb has performed half a university soccer season,” Riley cautioned. “He performed at a serious college underneath a number of scrutiny, performed in some massive video games and large moments. That is definitely going to assist him. There’s not a query he is prepared for this second.”

Williams won’t be ambushed. To a bigger extent, neither will USC. A school athlete of Williams’ stature has not shrunk from the highlight. A crew, a faculty, a metropolis and a sport is watching.

“USC is a blue blood; easy as that,” Williams mentioned. “Groups and organizations, they’ve fought moments. We’re right here attempting to show that round.”

He’ll have loads of assist. Oregon switch Travis Dye is a plug and play working again. Large receiver Mario Williams adopted his quarterback from Oklahoma. Pittsburgh switch WR Jordan Addison brought about essentially the most offseason upheaval — apart from Riley being employed — when he transferred to USC amid accusations he was “purchased” with title, picture and likeness funds.

“He was coming no matter NIL,” Williams mentioned. “We needed to joke about it. It was $2 million-$3 million that was on the market for him. I used to be pondering, ‘What the heck?'”

When Williams answered questions with teammate Shane Lee at Pac-12 Media Days final month, it was a supremely Hollywood setting. Given USC’s standing on this city, the scene had a “Meet The Beatles” really feel. It was the primary time lots of the native and nationwide media had interviewed the pair.

They answered each query with thought and depth, stopping simply in need of vanity.

“You do not come to USC and you do not come to Los Angeles to do issues small,” Riley added. “You have to set your sights massive.”

There sat two guys who had transferred from blue bloods themselves. Oklahoma and Alabama, respectively, are in higher form than USC in 2022 even with out Williams and Lee. Each appear to be they’ll step proper in. Williams accomplished his first 9 passes within the spring sport. Lee began as a freshman in 2019 however began solely 5 video games mixed within the final season, partially as a consequence of harm.

Like their coach, they guess on themselves, selecting the chances of the West Coast over the statis of championship rivalry.

“I do know that Shane will not be a loser,” Williams mentioned. “I do know I am not a loser. These guys round right here aren’t losers. They need to win. They have been hungry. They have been altering their our bodies and their minds.”

That is a part of the reality of USC in 2022. It have to be harder. The Scholar Physique Proper and Left days are over however not what they left behind: The custom of toughness. As a lot as Pete Carroll’s groups had been offensive machines, the defenses had been at all times bodily. From 2008-11 — mainly the tail finish of the Carroll dynasty — USC averaged 4.75 defenders within the draft per yr.

Since 2012, that quantity is 2. In 2020, USC didn’t have a defensive participant drafted for the primary time since a minimum of the debut of two-platoon soccer in 1964.

“You have a look at the trophies… and you are like, ‘That is SC,'” Lee mentioned. “It is the identical at Alabama. It is the identical at Oklahoma. … That is why I went to Alabama — to see if I matched up. It is self-discipline. It is effort. It is coronary heart. There is no actual magic to it.”

The hope of the convention has gone from enhancing the Pac-12 by way of USC’s excellence to enduring an extended, unhappy goodbye. USC should transfer ahead casting a watch towards assimilating into the Large Ten. Williams and Lee will probably be passed by 2024, but it surely’s this season’s crew that can lay the muse for all that.

It has been a pleasure for LA to fulfill Group Switch. Now the handshake is over. USC should win. Large.

“It is nice, however when it occurs,” mentioned Williams of a turnaround, “it is nothing that’s going to be a shock.”

Leave a Comment