With Caleb Williams at QB, USC football starts new era this weekend

With USC’s 2022 season set to open Saturday against Rice, the quarterback picture in Los Angeles is set for the time being. Head coach Lincoln Riley affirmed last week that sophomore transfer Caleb Williams would be the starter but expressed that he has “total confidence” in redshirt freshman backup Miller Moss.

This should come as no surprise; Williams took over the starting job under Riley at Oklahoma last season after coming in to lead the Sooners to a 55-48 comeback victory against Texas. He was also named one of USC’s four captains by Riley on Tuesday.

The dual-threat quarterback appeared in 11 games last season and impressed in his seven starts, tossing for just under 2,000 yards and 21 touchdowns while picking up another 400 yards and six scores on the ground.

Williams is expected to be a Heisman candidate this year and has the third-highest odds to win the prestigious award, behind Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud and Alabama’s Bryce Young.

When Riley took the job at USC, many of Oklahoma’s commits and current players made the decision to follow him to Southern California. Williams followed suit and for good reason. Riley is considered a great quarterback mentor, coaching future pros Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray to back-to-back Heisman Award-winning seasons at Oklahoma. Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts also experienced great success with Riley, finishing second in Heisman voting as a senior.

Waiting in the wings is Moss, who Riley has repeatedly praised for his leadership and level of preparation. Moss was given a fair shot to compete for the starting job and has shown up, but Williams is just more talented and more dynamic.

Still, Moss will likely see a fair amount of playing time in some of the games against weaker opponents like Rice this season. While not as athletic as Williams, he is a very capable passer and shows great confidence and maturity for a quarterback his age.

As of now, next year’s roster is shaping up to include 2023 five-star Malachi Nelson, the No. 2 ranked player in the 247Sports composite. Nelson decommitted from Oklahoma in November to follow Riley to USC.

Nelson will be one to keep an eye on going forward, as he took an unofficial visit to Texas A&M last month.

Nelson is extremely talented and would be a big pickup for the Trojans, who would expect him to take over the starting job after Williams likely departs following the 2023 season. It’s too early to tell what this means for Moss, who could potentially be beaten out by more talented quarterbacks throughout his college career should he stay at USC.

In the meantime, USC has plenty of talent at the quarterback position and is in great shape for the 2022 and 2023 seasons with Williams at the helm.

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