‘I want to be better than I was last year’: USC’s Caleb Williams aims to be better in his Heisman repeat
The bronze trophy sits in the same spot on his dining room table, a reminder of the high bar he set in his first season at USC. And in the three heady months since he first lifted his Heisman, becoming the eighth Trojan to win the honor, Caleb Williams has had plenty of time to consider how his encore might top it.
For one thing, his plans include making more space at the table.
“I’m going to have two of them soon!” Williams said Wednesday when asked where his Heisman was, a smile on her face.
Only one player in college football history has managed to lift the Heisman a second time, Ohio State’s Archie Griffin, and his second win came nearly 50 years ago. The odds for second to repeat are stacked against the USC junior quarterback, and his coach, Lincoln Riley, has made it clear that he and Williams haven’t spent much time, if at all, talking about it. that.
“We probably haven’t talked about it since the day he won it,” Riley said.
But with a giant bronze reminder staring at him every morning, Williams has considered the possibility while planning his goals for next season.
USC’s star quarterback finally sat down to make those plans official Wednesday, copying his goals onto a note taped to his phone’s home screen. Most of the goals, he said, focused on being more consistent or more efficient.
“I want to be better than last year,” Williams said. “There were things I could have done better last year that I’m trying to do now. There is much more that I know. I just want to be the best.”
It definitely won’t be easy to improve upon a stellar sophomore campaign that ranked not only as the best in college football last season, but also perhaps the best in USC history. Williams set school records for passing yards (4,537), total touchdowns (52), touchdown passes (42), rushing yards by a quarterback (382), and rushing touchdowns by a quarterback (10). The Trojans went 11-3 and won the Pac-12.
But when Williams sat down to consider where he could improve, he kept coming back to efficiency.
“If I’m more efficient, the more touchdowns, the more yards I’ll have,” Williams said.
Riley had two Heisman-winning quarterbacks when he was coaching at Oklahoma, but has never returned to school.
The coach has tried to find other areas in which to challenge Williams, making it clear to his quarterback that he needs to make “drastic improvements” to achieve some of the lofty goals he has set for himself and the team. which they did not reach. the College Football Playoff and lost to Tulane in the Cotton Bowl.
“That’s been our deal all offseason, last year it wasn’t good enough,” Riley said. “If we play and train like we did last year, then that’s not what this team needs and it’s not what we expect at all. … We’ve really been able to push him here the last month, and obviously we’re going to push him hard and expect a lot from him here in the spring, both as a player and as a leader.”
For Williams, that has meant taking on more of a mentoring role this spring, helping five-star freshman Malachi Nelson learn the ropes. It doesn’t hurt that she’s known Nelson for years on the camping circuit. His parents also speak regularly, sharing strategies to help their star quarterback sons succeed.
“It’s a new role for me that’s amazing and something I’m going full steam ahead in,” Williams said.
It has plenty of other new additions to get used to this spring. Their receiving corps has been rebuilt, with transfer Dorian Singer taking a lead role and two talented freshmen joining the mix in Zach Branch and Makai Lemon.
Branch especially has made a first impression on USC coaches. Williams called the prominent 5-foot-10 Las Vegas Bishop Gorman “an explosive little guy.”
“That guy from a talent standpoint is special,” receivers coach Dennis Simmons said.
The offensive line is also breaking into two transfers, while Justin Dedich moves to center, giving Williams a new center.
There will be plenty of time to solve the problems arising from those changes. As Williams embarks on his second spring at USC, his sights are on raising the bar again.