LOS ANGELES (AP) — Southern California quarterback Caleb Williams is the Associated Press College Football Player of the Year, becoming the school’s first honoree since 2005 with his stellar first season for Trojans.
Williams received 32 of 46 first-place votes and 117 points overall from the top 25 voters in the AP poll to win the award presented by Regions Bank. The Heisman Trophy favorite finished well ahead of TCU quarterback Max Duggan, who came in second with six first-place votes and 64 points.
Ohio State quarterback CJ Stroud finished third, with Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker fourth and Georgia’s Stetson Bennett fifth.
Alabama linebacker Will Anderson Jr., the first repeat SEC Defensive Player of the Year, was the only non-quarterback among this year’s top eight voters, finishing sixth after finishing fourth on the season. last.
Stroud and Hooker got two first-place votes each, while one first-place vote each went to Bennett, Anderson and star running backs Bijan Robinson of Texas and Blake Corum of Michigan.
The favorite was clearly Williams, the elusive passer and runner with an electrifying arm and strong leadership skills. The second followed Lincoln Riley from Oklahoma to the West Coast last winter, and the duo immediately brought USC (11-2) back to national prominence with a seven-game improvement on last season’s record. .
Williams passed for 4,075 yards with an FBS-leading 37 touchdowns and just four interceptions this season, completing 66.1 percent of his passes while earning the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year award.
His ability to avoid defensive pressure bordered on the supernatural at times, and he racked up 372 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns while setting USC school records for total touchdowns and total offensive yards (4,447) in a season.
“I think he’s just elegant in the way he plays,” USC wide receiver Kyle Ford said. “That’s the only word to describe it. He’s out there and he’s in the backfield, weaving and spinning, and he’s not getting hit and has a first down, and he’s out of bounds. Stuff like that is unbelievable to me, stuff he pulls off in a game. He’s a player, and he’s a winner.
Perhaps most impressively, Williams has played a vital role in bringing cohesion, teamwork and 11 wins to a program returning from a four-win season with a new coaching staff and more than two dozen additions. veteran players through the transfer portal.
Although he usually deflects questions about his own game by praising his teammates, Williams admits leadership “means everything” to him.
“I tried to lead more,” he added. “Being in a position where you can go out and do something bigger, or do something that you always dreamed of as a kid, it brings this understanding that now is the time.”
From his first weeks in Los Angeles, Williams accepted the responsibility of organizing and motivating this group of new teammates. He quickly cemented friendships across the roster with his charisma and upbeat personality.
“Talk about a guy you can rely on for everything,” USC left guard Andrew Vorhees said. “A guy who really cares, who is supportive in every way, really tries to be a guy who brings people together. It’s a brotherhood for him.
USC went 11-1 in the regular season, and Williams played one spectacular game after another, capped by rival wins over UCLA and Notre Dame. Although the Trojans missed the college football playoffs after losing the Pac-12 title game to Utah while Williams hobbled all night with a hamstring injury, USC No. turnaround season in the Cotton Bowl against Tulane.
Williams is the third AP Award winner in six years for Riley, who also coached Oklahoma quarterbacks Baker Mayfield (2017) and Kyler Murray (2018) to Heisman Trophies in the same years.
USC is having its best season since former coach Pete Carroll’s tenure, and the Trojans now have their first AP Player of the Year since those glory days. Quarterback Matt Leinart won the award in 2004, and tailback Reggie Bush claimed it the following year.
Both won the Heisman Trophy, and Williams is favored to claim USC’s record eighth as the school’s first runner-up since 2005.
Williams, Stroud, Duggan and Bennett are the finalists for the Heisman, which will be presented in New York on Saturday. The AP Prize winner has differed from the Heisman winner only twice in the past two decades.
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