Oklahoma quarterback Caleb Williams, the No. 2 quarterback recruit in the Class of 2021, will enter the transfer portal after one year with the Sooners. However, staying at Oklahoma “will definitely be an option,” according the statement Williams posted to Twitter on Monday announcing the move.
“I came to Oklahoma with a game plan, but with all of the recent changes, I need to figure out what is the right path for me moving forward,” Williams wrote in a statement. “According to NCAA rules, as a student-athlete, the only way I can speak with other schools and see who may offer the best preparation and development for my future career is by entering the portal. Staying at OU will definitely be an option as I begin this process.”
Williams took Norman, Oklahoma, by storm after leading a 21-point comeback after halftime against rival Texas in the Red River Showdown, the second-biggest comeback in program history. He was named to the 247Sports True Freshman All-America Team after throwing for 1,912 yards, 21 touchdowns and just four interceptions after taking over for Spencer Rattler. The freshman also rushed for 442 yards and six touchdowns after playing meaningful snaps in eight games in the 2021 season.
In an unorthodox move, Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione and newly-hired football coach Brent Venables released a statement immediately after Williams declared his intentions.
“Caleb Williams enjoyed an exciting and impactful first season at the University of Oklahoma and we will continue to be engaged with him and his family on a comprehensive plan for his development as a student and a quarterback, including a path to graduation and strategic leveraging of NIL opportunities,” said Castiglione and Venables. “While we believe OU provides Caleb the best opportunity to develop as a player and realize his goals for college and beyond, we respect his right to explore his options following key staffing changes here.”
The decision comes more than a month after former coach Lincoln Riley left Oklahoma for the same position at USC in a shocking coaching carousel twist. In the weeks since, 2023’s No. 2 overall quarterback Malachi Nelson flipped his commitment from Oklahoma to Riley at USC.
The Sooners also lost Rattler to South Carolina. If Williams opts to leave, Penn State transfer Micah Bowens, who has not thrown a pass for the Sooners, will be the only remaining scholarship quarterback on the roster.
Another tough blow
Oklahoma has experienced major player and coaching attrition over the last month since Riley’s departure, but Williams is easily the most resounding blow. The freshman showed flashes of being a Heisman-caliber player from the start and led the Sooners to memorable victories in the Red River Showdown and Alamo Bowl. He gave Oklahoma a high floor on offense as Venables takes over the program. That is now gone for the time being.
The Sooners are bringing in former Ole Miss offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby, who has a strong track record with quarterbacks Dillon Gabriel (UCF) and Matt Corral (Ole Miss). But with so few options left on the roster, Venables’ first season could quickly be derailed if a replacement isn’t found. It doesn’t help that Oklahoma is already slated to lose 14 starters between the NFL Draft and transfer portal.
Best on the market
The 247Sports transfer portal evaluators have already named Williams just the second perfect 1.000 transfer recruit in the nation, joining former No. 1 overall recruit and Ohio State QB Quinn Ewers. With Ewers already locked in at Texas, Williams is unquestionably the best quarterback available in what has quickly become a busy QB transfer market.
Alabama and Ohio State have strong quarterbacks coming back, but Clemson and Georgia could use upgrades. Notre Dame, Ole Miss and Michigan State are also top-10 squads that could be looking for options. Really, any school in the country that isn’t starting Bryce Young or C.J. Stroud should at least consider their options if Williams is on the table. He can swing a conference, or even national, title race.
Looking to the portal
Venables cannot afford to wait for Williams to make a decision. He needs to look to the transfer portal now to bring in a few options under center.
An obvious name that Venables would be familiar with is Taisun Phommachanh, a Clemson transfer and former blue-chip recruit who spent three years with the Tigers. Another option could be seeing whether Gabriel would be willing to back out of his commitment with UCLA to reunite with Lebby, his former OC. Incarnate Word quarterback Cameron Ward, a star at the FCS level, would be an intriguing option, too.
The Sooners are bringing in four-star quarterback recruit Nick Evers to bolster their quarterback room. However, entering 2022 with two quarterback who have never thrown a pass on the roster isn’t a situation Oklahoma can afford.