Saturday could have potentially marked the final game in a USC uniform for star quarterback Caleb Williams, with the projected No. 1 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft not yet announcing if he’ll play in the team’s bowl game. And with that in mind, On3’s Andy Staples and WeAreSC publisher Erik McKinney unpacked what Williams’ legacy at USC will look like in the future.
“It’s weird, it feels unfinished,” McKinney said. “It feels almost like Drake London was kind of in the same sort of category that COVID year where you’re kind of cut short and then when there’s an injury too, obviously not full health against Utah in the championship game last year. It just feels unfinished like you said, it really does feel unfinished.”
If Saturday was in fact Williams’ last game for the Trojans, his time in Los Angeles may seem short-lived following just two seasons with the program. In his short time with USC, Williams’ individual success stacks up against nearly every player in the school’s history. But the Trojans’ inability to achieve massive team success during his time on the team will definitely play an impact on how his legacy is viewed.
“Matt Leihart got to hold up a national championship trophy, Carson Palmer, these are the pervious two Heisman winners at quarterback. Carson Palmer got to finish in the Orange Bowl and you just felt this ascension of the program and here they go and these guys were huge parts of it,” McKinney said.
“And Caleb Williams, to throw for almost 400 yards against UCLA when your is running game is actively working against you and your offensive lineman are kind of waving guys through, not the best situation to end it in. He chose not to speak to the media afterward, and so yeah, it kind of ends with this poof then he’s gone.”
Williams holds single-season records in passing yards, passing touchdowns, total yards, and total touchdowns to go along with his 2022 Heisman Trophy win, displaying skills and providing moments that have some calling him the most can’t-miss prospect since Trevor Lawrence, Andrew Luck.
But his legacy at USC may be remembered as the right player at the wrong time, with his record as a USC starter sitting at 18-8 after Saturday without leading the Trojans to a conference or national championship win despite his oftentimes undeniable play.
“But as it goes on if USC and Lincoln Riley can build this program, the Heisman Trophy is what it is, people do not blame Caleb Williams. They look at him succeeding despite of it and the guys around him not playing up to his level,” McKinney said. “So USC fans, there’s some stuff. Maybe wanted him to run a little bit more, take a little bit more control, fix some of that stuff where he’s capable of just playing one-man football. But if he goes back to the Coliseum he’s gonna get ovations, he’s gonna be remembered as one of the great USC players, one of the great USC quarterbacks.”