WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif. – The pace of quarterback recruiting has become so frenetic, it’s as if scholarship offers to highly regarded prospects are passed out like credit card fliers in the airport. For quarterbacks in the Class of 2021 and on the cusp of their junior seasons, five of the top eight pro-style prospects have already committed.
There’s a strong chance that Caleb Williams, the No. 3 pro-style quarterback according to Rivals.com, could end up being the best of all of them. Williams has watched the commitment musical chairs unfold around him and greeted them with a shoulder shrug. “Everyone knows I’m pretty patient,” Williams told Yahoo Sports at the QB Collective in July. “I don’t really care where they go. Patience is a virtue.”
Williams’ patient approach is rooted in his interest in Stanford, which he’s called his “top choice.” It’s also tied to the nuanced approach that he and his father, Carl, have taken to recruiting. Carl refers to this as the “Transfer Portal-Resistant Approach.”
Carl Williams has concocted a three-step process to guide Caleb. Step 1 is a spreadsheet broken into four categories – ACADEMICS, ATHLETICS, PREPARATION and INTANGIBLES – that every school gets graded on after Caleb’s input. Among the subcategories are value of degree (academics), commitment to quarterback development (athletics), strength and conditioning/hot yoga (preparation) and connection to the coaching staff (intangibles).
Seven schools came out on top of the spreadsheet after Caleb Williams evaluated all the aspects. Stanford has long been believed to be Williams’ favorite, and they came out No. 1 in the spreadsheet analysis. Maryland finished No. 2, surprisingly, and this came in part because of the school’s commitment to sports science, facilities and a strong relationship with offensive coordinator Scottie Montgomery.
Step 2 began with Carl Williams sending a picture of Caleb from fifth grade working out with a sandbag on his back, when his dream of being an NFL quarterback began.
Carl asked each school in the text for a “specific and holistic program” that illustrates how Caleb can become “the 1st pick in the 2024 NFL draft.” Williams said he’d like that to include the school showcasing everything from “development of ability to read multiple defensive fronts” to “some pro-style under-center game stuff, not all spread” and “QB-specific sports science.”
He accompanied the long text with the theme song from the classic television show “The Six Million Dollar Man.” Carl Williams’ goal, essentially, is to be sure that his son maximizes his prolific talent. He knows that there’s a $20 million difference between being the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft and the No. 15 pick, and he wants to be sure his son is in the best position to snare a salary like Kyler Murray’s $35 million.
“You go to college to get prepared for your next job, right?” Carl Williams said. “So if there's a $20 million gap between being a janitor at here and being a janitor at that hotel across the street, hell I want to be the same janitor at the hotel across the street. It's the same thing. There's such a disparity in money. Who could prepare the kid to be the best?”
Carl Williams works in commercial real estate in and around Washington D.C. and is also a partner in a gym outside the city called Athletic Republic Capitol Region. He acknowledges that people may think he’s a “complete nut,” but his primary focus is on helping his son fulfill his dream. “This is Caleb’s dream since fifth grade,” Carl Williams said, “not my dream.”
He’s also not looking for assurances from the staff – Caleb being a starter, etc. – other than that there’s a specific development plan in place. “His development is the primary thing we’re focused on, and knowing we’ve got a plan and there’s measurables and deliverables from both sides,” Carl Williams said.
Before your mind wanders into Marinovich territory, rest assured that Caleb Williams attends one of the most academically prestigious high schools in the country – Gonzaga College High School – and frequents D.C. museums in his free time.
Caleb Williams understands his dad’s overlying philosophies on the finances of his development, but he has a bit more of a pragmatic perspective. “I want to play as long as I can,” Caleb Williams said. “If I can do that at a really high level, all of it will come in, the dollars will come in.”
Williams, who is 6-foot-1 and a solid 200 pounds, threw for 2,600 yards and 26 touchdowns for Gonzaga last year. He unleashed a confident smirk when asked about his rankings dropping in some services this summer. “I really have nothing to say,” he said. “I think I’m the best in the nation, even though I might not be 6-foot-4.”
At the QB Collective, which features all classes and ages of high school quarterbacks, there was a strong feeling among the NFL coaches there that Williams could end up the best prospect. Caleb has been coming to the camp since eighth grade, and Carl Williams says it’s definitively the best on the circuit because of the nuanced teaching from NFL coaches and assistants.
In part because of his more compact size and thick build, Caleb Williams was frequently compared to Russell Wilson.
“He stands out,” said Will Hewlett, a private quarterback tutor in Texas and co-director of coaching for the QB Collective. “Every time I’ve seen him, he’s been a better version of himself. For a guy that has all the offers and the rankings, it doesn’t seem to really affect him as a worker.”
Williams got offered by Alabama as a freshman and has already visited Alabama, LSU, Georgia, Ohio State, Oregon, Maryland and a handful of other schools. He hasn’t formally announced a list and has long since stopped announcing offers.
The offer he’s wanted since around fifth grade has been Stanford. That hasn’t come yet, in part because Stanford offers come much later in the process due to the school’s more stringent admissions requirements.
Generally, coach David Shaw has been a vocal critic of the sped-up recruiting cycle, and in a way, his view of how recruiting should unfold – meticulously with research, visits and building relationships – mirrors what the Williams family is doing. Stanford typically is even slower to offer quarterbacks, as Shaw has traditionally preferred to offer one in each class.
Carl and Caleb took a visit there in August, Caleb’s second time on campus. There’s clearly mutual interest, but neither side appears in a hurry because of their general approaches.
As for Step 3, Carl Williams isn’t ready to reveal that yet. But he’s confident of the plan in place. “You’re not transferring if you’re sticking to your plan,” he said, “even if the results don’t show up on the field immediately.”
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