EUGENE, OREGON - NOVEMBER 11: Quarterback Caleb Williams #13 of the USC Trojans passes the ball during the against the Oregon Ducks  at Autzen Stadium on November 11, 2023 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Tom Hauck/Getty Images)
EUGENE, OREGON - NOVEMBER 11: Quarterback Caleb Williams #13 of the USC Trojans passes the ball during the against the Oregon Ducks at Autzen Stadium on November 11, 2023 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Tom Hauck/Getty Images)

Caleb Williams Didn’t Respond Well to Pressure vs. Oregon

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It was a ‘classic Caleb Williams game’ for the USC quarterback (QB). He made a few ridiculous theatrical plays with his elite athleticism and ability to improvise, mixed in with plays that weren’t so hot.

It’s plays like this one right here that has about everyone thinking Williams is ‘generational,’ because that’s pretty much all mainstream media presents to us.

In reality, he had a mediocre performance going 19-for-34 (55.9%) with 291 yards passing, one touchdown, zero interceptions, and one pass breakup. He also was sacked three times as No. 6 Oregon defeated USC 36-27.

This continued the trend this season of Williams not being able to beat ranked college competition.

WATCH CALEB WILLIAMS VS. OREGON

Oregon’s defense got consistent pressure in Williams’ face and it noticeably knocked him out of sync.

Glorified system QB?

I started an independent study while evaluating all of Williams’ games this season by charting how many of his passes in each game were short-range (0-9 yards). Scouting is all about being able to identify patterns and trends. He has had his strongest completion percentages the more short passes he throws in a game (which exposes his ball placement at the intermediate to deep route levels).

In 2023:

-San Jose State (60% of Williams passes were short-range with a 72% completion percentage).

-Nevada (61% of Williams passes were short-range with a 75% completion percentage).

-Stanford (62% of Williams passes were short-range with a 90.5% completion percentage.)

-ASU (32% of Williams passes were short-range with a 64.5% completion percentage).

-Colorado (60% of Williams passes were short-range with a 75% completion percentage).

-Arizona (28% of Williams passes were short-range with a 56% completion percentage).

-Notre Dame (35% of Williams passes were short-range 62.2% completion percentage)

-Utah (44% of Williams passes were short-range with a 70.6% completion percentage)

CAL (30% of Williams passes were short-range with 57.5% completion percentage)

-Washington (60% of Williams passes were short-range with 77.1% completion percentage)

-Oregon (35% of Williams passes were short range with a 55.9% completion percentage)

Other disturbing trends continue…

I watched every snap last season and this season of Williams’ games and all along he has shown a couple of concerns when it comes to projecting him to the NFL.

That trend continued against Oregon.

-inconsistent going through his progressions

-inconsistent release time

It’s important at the NFL level for QBs to go through their progressions and not lock into where they are going to throw. Locking in with targets gives corners at the next level more time to react and anticipate throws, increasing their chances of being able to make a play on the ball.

What did he do well against the Ducks?

While he was inconsistent at the intermediate to deep route levels, he did manage to throw three intermediate beauties and one nice deep pass.

He also protected his body while running the football.

Additionally, he mounted a couple of long touchdown drives (10 plays-75 yards and 6 plays-77 yards) in the fourth quarter that got the Trojans within striking distance.

Scouting summary

Oregon had Williams back on his heels the entire game, and from an NFL standpoint, it makes me wonder. I didn’t like his response to the pressure Oregon was able to get on him. I also am concerned about him against higher-level competition.

This isn’t a one-off.

He didn’t rise to the occasion against the Ducks. It makes me wonder if this is what he looked like against No. 6 Oregon, how will he look against a much higher level of competition in the NFL?

Daniel Kelly is a former NFL Scout with the New York Jets. He was hired on the regime which featured Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick, Scott Pioli, Mike Tannenbaum, and Dick Haley. He is currently the Editor-in-Chief for First Round Mock, contributes at Yardbarker, and has written for Sports Illustrated Lions, Jets, and 49ers, as well as a featured guest on ESPN Radio and Fox Sports Radio. For more information about him visit his website at whateverittakesbook.com. He can be followed on Twitter @firstroundmock.

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