Wisconsin Badgers football fans have been buzzing over the past couple days about the potential of adding former Oklahoma quarterback Caleb Williams, a five-star recruit regarded as one of the top players in the Class of 2021, through the transfer portal.
The rumors have swirled even though Williams choosing Wisconsin seems like a long shot on the surface.
Williams impressed as a freshman with the Sooners, unseating highly regarded (and preseason Heisman Trophy favorite) Spencer Rattler for the starting job. Williams led Oklahoma from 21 points down to beat Texas, started seven games thereafter, and threw for three touchdowns in a win over Oregon in the Alamo Bowl, 47-32, helping the Sooners finish the year 11-2. He threw for 21 touchdowns and ran for six scores on the season.
But Williams stunned everyone and announced he would enter the transfer portal after the season, a move seen in concert with the departure of OU head coach Lincoln Riley to USC.
USC remains the obvious fit. Riley added Oklahoma receiver Mario Williams, who caught 35 passes for the Sooners last year as a freshman, as part of a strong class of transfer-portal additions. Not only that, the program lacks a clear-cut No. 1 quarterback with both incumbents Kedon Solvis and Jaxson Dart also in the transfer portal.
So why in the world would Williams eschew that seemingly tailor-made situation to play at a place like Wisconsin, a program with a run-first offense that happens to have a two-year starting quarterback in Graham Mertz on the roster, albeit a player who has struggled to match the hype attached to him when he joined the program?
Williams very well might still pick USC or another program among the glitterati of college football, but here’s where some of the dots connect to UW, which reportedly does have interest in Williams:
All signs point to the Badgers bringing in Baltimore Ravens tight ends coach Bobby Engram as the program’s new offensive coordinator.
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Engram is the father of Wisconsin’s Dean Engram, who also happened to be high-school teammates with Williams at Gonzaga High School in Washington DC It stands to reason, through that conduct, that the Williams family is well acquainted with Badgers coach Paul Chryst, who was head coach at the University of Pittsburgh when Engram was a wide receivers coach there.
Chryst, of course, was offensive coordinator in Wisconsin when Russell Wilson came from North Carolina State as a graduate transfer and delivered a magical 2011 season en route to a selection by the Seahawks in the NFL draft, followed by eight Pro Bowl selections. Williams, who could be among the top picks in the 2024 NFL draft, thus has some evidence that Chryst could prepare him for the next level.
The longshot theory was given added life when Texas-based recruiting analyst Gerry Hamilton, who formerly worked at ESPN, said he heard Williams was seriously considering UW. Hamilton’s colleague at On3 Sports, Billy Embody (who follows LSU closely) outright predicted Williams would land at UW. On Jan. 20, Dean Blevins, a TV and radio reporter who follows Oklahoma, said a source told him Williams’ choice was between USC and LSU.
If Williams winds up choosing Wisconsin, he’d be the highest-rated recruit in the era of recruiting web tracking. In addition to Mertz, the Badgers have backup Chase Wolf in the program, as well as 2021 recruit Deacon Hill and 2022 newcomer Myles Burkett.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism