During his weekly Tuesday press conference, Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley was asked a lot about Caleb Williams’ recent struggles.
He made it clear — on a list of things Riley might be concerned about, Williams isn’t one of them.
“I still have a lot of confidence in him because when he, and we, as an offense around him have played at a high level,” Riley said, “we’ve had a stretch of games, a set of games since he’s been the starter where we’ve played as high-level as we’ve ever played.”
He did acknowledge that there have been some issues in recent weeks, particularly in the passing game.
After replacing Spencer Rattler against Texas, Williams burst onto the scene with his explosiveness and versatility. In his first three starts, he averaged 291 passing yards per game while throwing 12 touchdowns and completing more than 75 percent of his passes.
But in the Sooners’ past two games, he’s thrown for just 229 yards and one touchdown. His completion percentage has dropped as well, completing just 47 percent of his passes.
He’s had some good moments mixed in, including a 74-yard rushing touchdown on the Sooners’ first possession against Iowa State. But he’s had moments where he’s looked indecisive and uncomfortable in the pocket.
After the Iowa State game, Riley took the blame for not putting Williams in more positions to succeed, and he did the same thing on Tuesday.
“I think we’re both still kind of feeling each other out right now,” Riley said. “We’ve had some games where we’ve played... lights out. We’ve had some games where we’ve been good at times and not good at times. I think as you through these different experiences you’re learning. For him, he’s just now hitting kind of the halfway point of his first season.”
Williams and the OU offense has also faced some stiff competition in recent weeks. By most metrics, Iowa State and Baylor have the second and third best defenses in the Big 12, respectively, and the Sooners managed just 42 points combined in those two games. One of those touchdowns came from the Sooners’ defense on a Jalen Redmond fumble return.
But it’s not going to get any easier against Oklahoma State this weekend. The Cowboys are ranked in the top 10 nationally in both rushing and passing defense, and they haven’t surrendered more than 24 points in a conference game this season.
With a tough game coming this weekend, Riley has emphasized making the easy play to Williams.
“I think the thing we need from him is just to be consistent, to be steady and just to make the routine play,” Riley said. “He’s going to, just by nature of his skill set and the way he plays, he’s gonna always make a few spectacular plays. He’s just kind of built that way. You’re gonna have a handful of those no matter what.
“The steadier, the more consistent he can become and play, then I think the more consistent as an offense that we’ll play.”
Despite the recent struggles, OU H-back Jeremiah Hall said Williams has continued to persevere and the team is confident he’ll bounce back.
“His personality hasn’t changed at all,” Hall said. “He’s still out there having fun, He’s still out there smiling. I will say you can tell he’s a little bit more locked in. He’s a little bit more business-like, if that makes sense. There’s less goofing around on the sidelines. There’s more attentiveness to what things are going on when he’s not on the field. S
“So he’s grown, and I’ve been able to see that in the little bit of time that he’s had the starting quarterback role.”