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OU football: Caleb Williams compared to Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray as teammates call him ‘the future’ after win against TCU

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Caleb Williams

Freshman quarterback Caleb Williams takes snaps before the homecoming game against TCU on Oct. 16.

The #Sooners conquered TCU on Saturday in a 52-31 homecoming win. Watch our highlights from the game:

Filmed by Georgia Bomar and Justin Jayne

Edited by Georgia Bomar

Caleb Williams shifted left as a would-be tackler flew to the ground. 

With room to run, the Washington, D.C., native directed blockers and bolted. After bobbing in and out of traffic, he stood firmly inside Owen Field’s south endzone 41 yards later, where he gazed into a sea of fans donning crimson before his teammates swarmed him.

The play was one of many highlights Williams had in his debut as the Sooners’ starting quarterback, which saw him lead No. 4 OU (7-0, 4-0 Big 12) to a 52-31 victory over TCU (3-3, 1-2). As the fifth true freshman quarterback to ever start for the Sooners, Williams recalled past OU gunslingers and opened new possibilities for the Sooners’ offense.

Williams finished 18-of-23 passing for 295 yards and four touchdowns and added 66 rushing yards on nine carries. He completed his first 10 passes for 206 yards and a score, which came on a 17-yard pass to redshirt senior H-back Jeremiah Hall. The last true freshman quarterback to start for Oklahoma, assistant Cale Gundy, lost 33-31 to Iowa State in 1990.

Now 394 games removed from that moment, Williams’ teammates believe the freshman who didn’t play his senior year of high school due to the pandemic is on track to stand among OU’s all-timers at the position.

“He’s himself,” said senior safety Pat Fields. “He's the same guy that we recruited. … He’s fiery. I didn’t play with Baker, but I think he has some traits of Baker Mayfield. I played with (Kyler Murray), and I think he has some traits of K1 in terms of what he can do with the ball in his hands (and) how dynamic he is. I think he’s a special player. 

“He has that little kid joy for the game. And I say that because it's so important. A lot of guys, they get tired of practicing, they get tired of the grind, but he’s just excited every single day. … He’s the future of our program, and I think he’s doing everything he can and should do.”

Williams’ start comes a week after he took over for redshirt sophomore and preseason Heisman favorite Spencer Rattler in the Sooners’ 55-48 comeback over Texas. He had 212 passing yards and two touchdowns while going 16-of-25 in the win.

After dispatching the Horned Frogs, senior wide receiver Mike Woods complimented Williams’ tendency to toss 50-50 balls. Ultimately, however, Woods said OU’s receiving corps doesn’t care who’s behind center and that they’d trust either quarterback in head coach Lincoln Riley’s system.

Yet, ESPN color commentator Kirk Herbstreit noted during the game’s broadcast that the Sooners’ offense has seemed to find itself under Williams. The former Gonzaga High School standout has now led Oklahoma to back-to-back 50-point performances and now has 40-1 odds to win the Heisman Trophy per Oddsmaker despite playing at length in just the past seven quarters of OU football.

“I think as we walk out of this stadium, and everybody that watched this game, everybody’s going to be talking about Caleb Williams,” Herbstreit said on air, "And how Caleb Williams makes Oklahoma a legitimate team and makes this a really exciting race in the Big 12. … He got his shot, and he’s completely taken advantage of this. There is a buzz in this stadium, in this city and in this state now about this Sooner team with him there.” 

Riley told reporters that he decided Williams would start around midweek. He said both Williams and Rattler “handled it well.”

Williams was not announced as the starter until minutes before the game kicked off.

“Caleb got the opportunity tonight and obviously did a great job with it,” Riley said. “I'm confident that had Spencer gotten the opportunity tonight, with the way he practiced, he would’ve played very well also. Thought the room handled it great. Proud of those guys for a winning effort and being team-first guys.”

Though Rattler didn’t take a snap Saturday, redshirt junior running back Kennedy Brooks said he was involved on the sidelines and that he believes Rattler will continue to help his team however he can.

For now, though, it appears to be Williams’ team to lead in the second half of a season in which the Sooners remain undefeated and with all their preseason goals still in front of them. 

“He’s a great leader for being a freshman,” said redshirt sophomore receiver Jadon Haselwood. “I don't think he ever feels pressure. He's always in a good mood. Like even last week (against Texas), he felt no pressure, no fear. You can tell by the way he played. (He’s) just a great kid. He can sling it, he can run it, he can do whatever he needs to do to get the ball downfield.”

Chandler Engelbrecht is a journalism senior and the Daily's assistant sports editor. He currently covers OU football and has previously covered OU men's basketball, volleyball and men's gymnastics.

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