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Horning: Caleb Williams should still be in high school but he stole the spring game instead

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OU Spring Game

OU’s Caleb Williams passes the ball Saturday during the OU Spring Game at the Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.

NORMAN — At the very least, it was another spring game. Of that, we're certain.

Also, Jadon Haselwood made a one-handed lefty catch that that would have drawn a “Holy Cow” from the great CeeDee Lamb himself.

Jaden Knowles, a redshirt junior who found his way to Norman from Southwestern Oklahoma State in Durant, caught seven passes for 71 yards and ran thrice for 31.

Had Spencer Rattler, under pressure, defenders swarming, not fired off a 50-yard bomb to Mario Williams, he would have finished an utterly pedestrian 5 of 13 for 66 yards through the air rather than a merely pedestrian 6 of 14 for 116.

So take it how you like it.

OU’s awash in receivers but maybe Haselwood comes storming back after a season in which he caught just four balls, arriving late on the back end of a knee injury.

Perhaps Knowles becomes the best thing to come out of SWOSU since Dennis Rodman or maybe he's just another guy who had a nice spring game. And, sure, it’s hard to believe Rattler will struggle nearly so much when it counts.

There was that.

But there was also Caleb Williams, who should still be in the 12th grade, yet managed to show up at OU in time for spring football after finishing up early at Gonzaga College High School in Washington, D.C.

It was only the spring game and Williams, ranked the No. 1 dual threat quarterback prospect in the nation, is supposed to be terrific, but did we really expect him to be better than a Heisman hopeful the first time he played in front of people.

Unlikely, but he was.

It wasn’t close.

Williams’ first snap under spring game rules that would make him “down” when touched, he carried for 18 yards.

When he threw the ball, it tended to get caught. Williams completed 10 of 11 tosses for 99 yards.

So he didn’t go too deep, but he was really, really good and it might well matter because the Sooners cannot possibly remain as lucky as they’ve been at the quarterback position the last, oh, six seasons, anyway.

No, we’re not saying Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray, Jalen Hurts and, last season, Rattler, were lucky to play the position so well.

What we’re saying is the program has been beyond fortunate that its quarterbacks, who have played so well, have also played injury free.

Indeed, no Sooner quarterback has missed a start to injury since Trevor Knight was limited to eight games in 2014.

It’s uncanny.

Not only did Landry Jones set every Sooner passing record because he started four seasons and had an offensive coordinator in Josh Heupel who, left to his own devices, would have thrown it as often as Mike Leach throws it but without the inventiveness, he never got hurt, playing in all 53 games from 2009-12.

The last time injury was the culprit at quarterback for OU, it was the thing thrusting Jones into the spotlight, having to take over for Sam Bradford, who was hurt against both BYU and Texas one season after winning the Heisman Trophy.

There’s no reason to believe Rattler’s going down, but the Sooners’ good fortune can’t last forever and, should it run out in 2021, for a game or two or several, you wouldn’t want a true freshman picking up the pieces.

Not until Saturday.

Most of all, Williams looked like he belonged. Poised, unfazed, confident, relaxed, all those descriptors that speak to intangibles more than raw talent.

“I thought he was pretty decisive,” said Lincoln Riley, who runs the whole program and the quarterbacks, too. “I know you guys hear me use that word all the time when referencing quarterbacks, but that’s so important at that position and I thought he had one of the most decisive days that he probably had all spring out there today.”

Rattler was asked about Williams, too.

“He’s doing a good job,” he said.

Rattler went on to say he feels like the “big bro” among the quarterbacks, playing the role Hurts played for him. Kudos to him for it, but this was a day he maybe should have been taking notes from his understudy.

Coming out of Gonzaga, Williams was listed at 6-foot-1, 200 pounds. He’s still 6-1, but OU has him at 219, so he’s apparently taken to the strength and conditioning part of showing up early quite well, too.

Maybe Rattler won’t need relieving, Haselwood’s got another 25 circus grabs in him and Knowles takes off. Maybe lots of things.

But if there’s one thing to take from the annual spring game — often, to be sure, there’s nothing — Caleb Williams can play.

So it appears, he can play right now.

Clay Horning

405 366-3526

Follow me @clayhorning

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