Williams is a new-age remake of Dupree
NORMAN — The Caleb Williams comparisons come in cavalcades.
Cale Gundy (previous freshman starting quarterback). Jamelle Holieway (true freshman championship QB). Kyler Murray (mobile quarterback deluxe). Superman.
Uh, I don’t really have an explanation for that last one, beyond marketing. OU already has a Superman. We won’t soon forget you, Roy Williams.
But now that I’ve mentioned it, faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, does make me think of a Sooner, and it’s not Caleb Williams.
It’s Marcus Dupree.
And Dupree makes me think of Williams.
Thirty-nine autumns ago — where does the time go? — Dupree played sparingly in September and then shook October like he was Reggie Jackson.
The most ballyhooed recruit of my lifetime carried 12 times for 20 meager yards before the 1982 OU-Texas game. Then Dupree picked up his ball bat and started hitting home runs.
A 63-yard touchdown run vs. Texas. A 75-yard touchdown run vs. Kansas. A 77-yard punt return vs. Colorado. An 80-yard touchdown run against Kansas State. A 70-yard run
OU coach Lincoln Riley on freshman QB Caleb Williams, pictured
against Missouri. An 86-yard run against Nebraska. Fiesta Bowl runs of 56 and 48 yards against Arizona State.
Only OSU, in Dupree’s first start, between the Kansas and Colorado affairs, kept Dupree from going cross-country.
It was the greatest explosion of monster plays in Sooner history, when you factor in the compressed game of 1982. Even in this offensive century, Dupree’s exploits defy belief.
But now comes Williams, who seems to be taking dead aim at Dupree, and that’s not even counting the long pass plays. These days, long pass plays come a dozen a dime. The rules, the officiating, the summer leagues, the schemes. All make long balls quite frequent.
Heck, Williams himself has three such deep throws that produced at least 40-yard gains, in barely a game-and-ahalf.
Most big-time quarterbacks do that nowadays. Spencer Rattler did it last year. Jalen Hurts did it. Murray. Baker Mayfield. Landry Jones. Slingin’ Sammy B. Jason White. Josh Heupel. The list is long.
But running half the gridiron length or more? On a regular basis? Who’s doing that?
Williams has played more than a snap or two in only three games. He’s run for cross-country touchdowns in all three games: 59 yards vs. Western Carolina, 66 yards vs. Texas, 41 yards vs. Texas Christian.
That’s Marcus Dupree production.
Except Williams also is throwing touchdown passes from near and far.
“I knew he was obviously athletic on tape and had some thickness in his lower body that suggested he might be able to run the ball some,” Lincoln Riley said of his freshman phenom.
But remember, Riley never got to see Williams play high school football live, and Williams didn’t even play as a high school senior, due to Covid.
“I got to see him practice, but unless you get to see these guys play live, it’s tough to gauge what they can do running the ball at this level against the other great athletes we play against,” Riley said. “You see bits and pieces in practice, but our guys aren’t live, they’re not getting hit.
“I knew he was a good athlete and I knew he was going to make some plays. It’s been good to see him get loose a few times. One of the things that’s probably the toughest to evaluate that’s been a nice thing to see is his ability to make some people miss, run through some tackles, which adds another dimension to the things that he can do.”
All of Williams’ play has been stunning. But those long runs defy history.
We remember Murray as the ultimate run/pass threat during his historic 2018 season. That year, Murray had runs of at least 40 yards thrice. In 14 games.
Williams has matched that in one full game and two halves.
I don’t know if Williams can keep it up, the way Dupree kept it up in 1982. I doubt it. Home runs are hard to hit. Chances are, defenses will bring up the safeties more and more, and Williams’ big plays will come the new-fashioned way, via the deep pass.
Dupree himself didn’t keep it up beyond 1982. He wasn’t the same player in 1983 and quit the team halfway through the season. He became as much OU myth as Sooner legend.
I assume Williams will not go bust in 2022 and beyond. Riley’s track record is strong with quarterbacks.
But for now, Williams is a 21st-century remake of the Marcus Dupree story, and if Williams keeps it up, the Superman label will be his.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. Support his work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.