Lincoln Riley excited to take ‘reins off’ Caleb Williams at USC

After all the things they’d weathered throughout one yr collectively, all Caleb Williams wanted now from his coach was a glance from the sideline. A shoulder shrug. A head nod. A thumbs-up. That, the USC quarterback says, can be sign sufficient for him to know precisely what Lincoln Riley was pondering.

By that time, the USC coach may normally inform what was coming from his quarterback, too.

“The way he walks out on the field, I can almost tell you the kind of day he’s going to have,” Riley mentioned. “I’ve seen now so much, every mannerism and every word. I’ve got to a place where he can tell and I can kinda know what’s in his head even before. And I think he, in a lot of ways, [feels] the same thing with me. I think a lot of times I’m getting ready to make a point to him, whether it’s about playing the position or leading or anything and he can kinda take the words right from me. We’re in lockstep.”

Nothing is extra essential for USC in its first yr underneath Riley than that relationship between the coach and his Heisman contender quarterback, and in Williams’ case, there appear to be no issues on that entrance. Because the pair enters its second yr collectively, each describe a connection that borders on telepathic. By their telling, it’s not unreasonable to suppose coach and quarterback may end one another’s sentences.

“Me and my teammates were laughing about this,” Williams mentioned Wednesday. “We kind of communicate really fast, even when I’m on the field, when he’s on the sideline, thinking through plays and things like that.”

It’s been a number of years since Riley has had the posh of a long-lasting relationship along with his main passer. Baker Mayfield was the final quarterback to spend a number of years within the coach’s system. His earlier three beginning quarterbacks at Oklahoma earlier than Williams — Spencer Rattler, Jalen Hurts and Kyler Murray — had been every solely underneath middle for a season apiece.

In every case, Riley nonetheless adjusted his offense accordingly. Two of these three quarterbacks nonetheless wound up Heisman finalists at yr’s finish, and Oklahoma nonetheless ranked among the many high six in scoring offense throughout all three seasons.

However the distinction between a quarterback’s first marketing campaign and his second can usually be staggering. That potential leap in 12 months 2 is a part of the rationale Williams adopted Riley to USC within the first place. As a substitute of studying a brand new offense, he may spend his time fine-tuning his efficiency in the identical system.

Already, Williams can sense the distinction as a sophomore.

“I can see things. I don’t necessarily just have to worry about playing,” Williams mentioned when requested about his progress in 12 months 2. “I can see things better from the defensive side. I know exactly where everyone has to line up, exactly where they’re going to be on our side. Making sure we get the right runs into certain blitzes or defensive fronts. Making sure we have certain checks. I’ve said it before, I want to be sort of like Coach Riley Part 2 on the field.”

USC quarterback Caleb Williams, left, stands subsequent to educate Lincoln Riley through the group’s spring recreation on the Coliseum on April 23.

(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Occasions)

“I trust him completely. There’s not anything in this offense I wouldn’t do, I wouldn’t call with him.”

— Lincoln Riley, USC coach, on Caleb Williams

And in flip, Riley has tried to provide his quarterback the liberty to fill that function.

Final season, the coach was particularly cautious of overloading his star freshman. He didn’t need Williams to suppose an excessive amount of on the sphere.

“I was pretty guarded about that,” Riley mentioned. “It’s just something I believe in with young QBs.”

However that’s now not the case this season.

“I’ve kind of taken the reins off,” Riley mentioned.

“I trust him completely. There’s not anything in this offense I wouldn’t do, I wouldn’t call with him. Not saying it’s going to be the same schemes, anything like that, but I trust him going into this second year as much as I have any of the other guys. So I think that is probably the biggest point, and then again, like taking away the reins in terms of how we play the game but also just in terms of how I coach him.

“Like I feel like I can coach him with everything and not worry about, ‘Is this going to confuse him? Or is this going to slow him down processing or take away? Like, he can handle it now. There’s just a deeper understanding of what we’re doing, and because of that he’s playing with a lot more confidence.”

That confidence was on show Wednesday, when the USC offense was dragging at follow. Williams took it upon himself to be the spark plug, jolting the group to life and calling on his teammates to get their act collectively.

“That’s what you want to see from a QB,” wideout Brenden Rice mentioned. “It makes you want to follow him. You want to be behind him and let him lead.”

As Riley sees it, “that’s the best quality [a quarterback] can have.”

“You can be the most talented, gifted quarterback to ever play,” Riley mentioned. “If the other 10 guys aren’t inspired and where they should be around you, it’s not going to matter. He’s got a great ability to do that. I would say right now it’s his defining characteristic.”

After all, elite expertise doesn’t harm, both. Riley mentioned Williams has vastly improved his footwork since final season, when his arm or his penchant for scrambling usually bailed him out of dangerous conditions.

“His consistency level as a thrower has gotten much better as the feet have come along with it,” Riley mentioned.

With each now in lockstep, there’s no telling how far coach and quarterback may take USC’s offense from right here.