If Wisconsin wants to land a player like Caleb Williams, it needs a more appealing offense
If it happened, it would be one of the biggest stunners in the short history of the transfer portal. Former Oklahoma quarterback Caleb Williams, quite possibly the best player in the portal this offseason, was linked to Wisconsin recently.
There’s probably not much to it other than the obvious comparisons to former Wisconsin QB Russell Wilson, who transferred to Madison for 1 season before getting drafted in the third round. Brandon Drumm of 247Sports’ OUinsider said he was told that Williams’ camp was impressed with how Wilson fit with Paul Chryst’s offense.
Badgers fans hopefully aren’t getting their hopes up on that one, because it makes no sense. For one, the door is open for Williams to join his former head coach, Lincoln Riley, and former teammate, wideout Mario Williams, at USC.
In a bigger sense, though, why would a Heisman Trophy contender and a guy who will probably be among the top picks in the NFL Draft in a few years play for a program that hasn’t had a top-25 offense since 2014 and the past 2 seasons has been ranked 88th and 103rd nationally in total offense? Why would he go to a Badgers program that has 1 proven wideout on its roster, Chimere Dike? If Williams played defense, then maybe. But to play QB? I’d be shocked.
Wisconsin has talent up front at offensive line, and it has a future NFL running back in Braelon Allen. But there are limited weapons and no path to putting up great numbers. If Williams is going to be a Heisman contender and a top pick in the draft, he needs numbers. Obviously.
If Wisconsin wants to seriously attract a player like Williams, it needs an offensive makeover. Chryst’s offense was utterly predictable in 2021. Wisconsin attempted more than 25 passes just once in the final 10 games of the season, which hardly seems like something Williams, or any top QB, would sign up for. The Badgers had the 120th-ranked passing offense this past season.
Even more maddening for Wisconsin fans is that the Badgers finally have a top recruit at QB, and their offense has struggled immensely with him starting. Graham Mertz has 19 TD passes and 16 interceptions over the last 2 seasons. Why would that incentivize another top QB to come to Wisconsin?
Besides, there is evidence that QBs are better off elsewhere, with Jack Coan providing an unfortunate example, for Badgers fans at least. After losing his job at Wisconsin, Coan threw more TD passes (25-18) and averaged more yards per attempt (8.2-8.0) in 1 fewer game than his best season at Wisconsin. And by the way, no one will mistake Notre Dame for a dynamic offense, though the Irish did have a top-20 passing offense this season, and were even more improved than 2020, when they went to the Playoff.
The Russell Wilson comparisons are interesting, though Williams is actually 2 inches taller. If coming to Wisconsin because of Wilson’s 1 great season over 10 years ago is really something his camp is intrigued by, I don’t understand. It’s not like Wilson wasn’t a very good player before going to Wisconsin. He had 76 TD passes and 24 INTs in 3 seasons with at NC State.
Besides, a lot has changed since 2011. Chryst is looking to hire a new offensive coordinator and relieve himself of play-calling duties to rejuvenate this stagnant offense.
All that said, of course Wisconsin should be pursuing Williams. He is already a star and would instantly make Wisconsin the West favorite and a threat to win the Big Ten and reach the CFP.
But if Wisconsin wants someone like him to take over the program, it needs better infrastructure to be be an attractive landing spot.