Projected top quarterback in 2024 NFL Draft won’t play in bowl game
We’re still waiting to find out if USC quarterback Caleb Williams has played his final game for the Trojans. What we do know as of Monday afternoon though is that he’s played his final game for them – this year.
On Monday, USC head coach Lincoln Riley told reporters that Williams will not play in the team’s bowl game later this month. After a 7-5 finish to the season, USC was selected to play in the Holiday Bowl against Louisville.
Williams is projected to be the first quarterback – and potentially the first player – selected in the 2024 NFL Draft. A true junior, he hasn’t officially declared for the Draft yet, and in his most recent public comments called it “a game-time decision.”
Given his projected draft standing, Williams is expected to forego his senior year and declare. Opting out of a bowl game is often the first step players make before announcing they’re declaring for the draft, so this could be a sign that process is in motion. Williams has until Jan. 15 to officially make a decision.
After following Riley from Oklahoma to USC last summer, Williams put together a fantastic season as the Trojans’ starter in 2022. He completed 66.6 percent of his passes for 4,537 yards with 42 touchdowns (plus another 10 rushing) and five picks in 14 games. USC went 11-3 that season, starting 11-1 before losing to Utah in the Pac-12 Championship and then Tulane in the Cotton Bowl.
This year, Williams’ numbers dipped slightly. In two fewer games he completed 68.6 percent of his passes for 3,633 yards and 30 touchdowns (plus 11 rushing) with five picks.
As a whole, a weak defense left USC unable to reach similar success as they finished the regular season 7-5. The Trojans allowed 34.9 points per game, which ranked 125th out of 133 FBS programs and third-worst among Power Five programs ahead of only Stanford and Vanderbilt. Meanwhile, Williams led the offense which scored 41.8 points per game – good for fourth in the nation.
Williams isn’t the only top quarterback who hasn’t declared for the NFL Draft yet. Drake Maye, a redshirt sophomore from UNC who is also projected to be a top-three pick, will need to make a similar decision as well. The Tar Heels are scheduled to play West Virginia in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl.