From the time that Brent Venables stepped out onto the tarmac of the Max Westheimer Airport in Norman, Oklahoma, one of his most important tasks has been to keep freshman quarterback Caleb Williams on campus.
Williams is not your typical freshman quarterback, nor is he an expendable asset of the team that Venables inherited; he is a glue that is holding together an offensive unit that just lost arguably the best mind in college football. When Lincoln Riley left, it was almost a foregone conclusion that Caleb Williams was gone too.
But he’s not, yet. His name isn’t in the transfer portal, he’s going to basketball games and cheering on the Sooners, and he’s doing podcast interviews with his teammates.
Caleb Willaims sure doesn’t seem like a guy that is on his way out of Norman, and Brent Venables doesn’t seem to think so either.
Here is what Venables had to say in response to being asked if Williams was going to be the Sooners quarterback in 2022, in an interview with News 9’s Dean Blevins.
“Well, I do. I’d be surprised if he wasn’t,” Venables said. “But you’d have to ask him. He’s a wonderful young man, he’s incredibly talented. I do believe that he and his family have tried to plant their roots right here and make this home. And so hopefully that’ll continue to be a huge part of who they are, from a Sooner family and the connectivity that I feel like has been established. And we need him. I think that the best version of Caleb Williams, combined with a supporting cast, coaching, playing, offense, defense can be a wonderful marriage.”
“He’s a wonderful young guy that’s got big dreams like all young people, and hopefully he and their family feel like that we can facilitate that. That, again, our values, and his dreams are our dreams and so forth. Obviously, we want to be a great teammate, but he’s the face of our program moving forward.”
Venables has certainly done his part in keeping No. 13 around, as he went and hired the best offensive coordinator in the country over the past three years in Jeff Lebby. Lebby has been masterful in running a dynamic offense at UCF in 2019 and Ole Miss for the past two seasons. If there is a guy that is on par with Riley, as far as offensive output goes, it’s Lebby.
|Jeff Lebby: Total Offense (Rank)||Lincoln Riley: Total Offense (Rank)|
|2021: 495 YPG (5th)||2021: 441 YPG (28th)|
|2020: 556 YPG (3rd)||2020: 483 YPG (13th)|
|2019: 529 YPG (3rd)||2019: 523 YPG (4th)|
The main question is, can Lebby replicate what Riley has done as a quarterbacks coach. Obviously, we know about Mayfield, Murray, and Hurts but what has Lebby done. Well, he is responsible for the development of now-UCLA quarterback Dillon Gabriel. Gabriel had a fantastic season at UCF (3,659 passing yards and 29 touchdowns) and should be a weapon at UCLA under Chip Kelly.
For the last two seasons, he has groomed Matt Corral, who has totaled 6,676 passing yards and 49 passing touchdowns along with 1,103 rushing yards with 15 rushing touchdowns in two seasons. Those number have landed Corral as the top quarterback prospect in the 2022 NFL Draft cycle. If Lebby can convince Williams to stay, which he should, he has the talent to top the best season of either of Lebby’s previous proteges, and it could be by a wide margin.
There is a lot to get excited about there, but Williams reportedly hasn’t made his decision yet and nothing is set in stone until that happens. However, if the head coach expects him to be back in 2022, that certainly bodes well for the Sooners moving forward.