College football spring games: Caleb Williams shines in USC debut, but LSU’s QB competition far from over

It’s Saturday, the sun is out, birds are chirping and footballs are flying through the air. It’s spring, and that means it’s time for spring football — and not the lame USFL variety. No, it’s the kind with strange scoring rules you don’t understand (take USC, for example), random field goal kicking contests and wealthy alumni standing on the field being applauded for their generous donations.

None of it means anything, but it’s the first glimpse at next year’s team for fans across the country, and that’s the only meaning we need. Plenty of top teams finished their spring campaigns today. Here’s what you missed if you dared to do something else with your time.


Defense dominates in South Bend: Is it possible that Brian Kelly took the Notre Dame offense to Baton Rouge? Probably not, but it’s the spring, so we need to overreact to anything that happens, and not much of anything happened for the Notre Dame offense Saturday. Gold defeated Blue 13-10, with freshman QB Steve Angeli scoring on a 10-yard scramble to finish the game and give Gold the win.

Drew Pyne received the majority of snaps to start, but first-year coach Marcus Freeman described his overall performance as “up and down,” going on to say that Notre Dame receivers “gotta be guys that make the quarterback look good.”

Defensively, Northwestern transfer Brandon Joseph made a few plays that showed why Irish fans should be excited to see him this season. At the same time, other players like Alexander Ehrensberger, Marist Liufau and Rylie Mills shone as well.

ole miss

This Michael Trigg guy could be a problem for opponents: As you’d expect, the biggest story heading into Ole Miss’ spring game was the QB spot. It was the first chance for Rebels fans to see USC transfer Jaxson Dart in action, but it was another USC transfer who turned the most heads. Whether it was Dart, Luke Altmyer or Kinkead Dent (I want to be named Kinkead Dent) getting reps, they were all looking for Michael Trigg, who finished the day with three touchdown grabs and looks poised to be a big part of what the Rebels do on offense in 2022.

As for Dart, it wasn’t the best of starts. He was picked off twice on the afternoon, including a 73-yard pick-six by safety Tysheem Johnson. The good news for Dart is that Altmyer didn’t do much to separate himself. Altmyer played behind the starting offensive line and completed only 9 of 22 passes for 182 yards, while Dart completed 11 of 30 passes for 166 yards and two touchdowns. After the game, Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin said that he thought Dart was “trying to win the job instead of just playing quarterback.”


The QB battle is a long way from over: Whether or not we should read anything into it, I’d be remiss not to point out that Arizona State transfer Jayden Daniels took the first snaps on offense at QB for the Tigers Saturday, but he shared the role as the day went on. Daniels, Myles Brennan, Garrett Nussmeier and Walker Howard all played and all led touchdown drives.

Daniels looked impressive considering how little time he’s spent in the program, but he also used his legs and mobility more than the others, which often feels like cheating in a spring game situation where QBs aren’t live. Still, the biggest takeaway for me was that Nussmeier looks to be a real threat to win the starting job. He has completed 9 of 16 passes for 136 yards and a touchdown. The Tigers were missing a few key players on offense — including receiver Kayshon Boutte — but it was a promising start for the offense in Brian Kelly’s first spring, and I don’t think this QB battle will be settled before the season begins.

Not unless this guy has remaining eligibility, anyway.


Gerry Bohanon and Blake Shapen share snaps at QB: The Green team, consisting of most of Baylor’s starters, beat the Gold team 28-16, but the Green team did so with two quarterbacks. While Bohanon served as Baylor’s primary starting QB a season ago, he split possessions with Shapen Saturday. It doesn’t come as a surprise, considering Shapen saw plenty of action as a freshman last season, including the Bears’ Big 12 Championship win over Oklahoma State.

This is clearly a battle that will carry on over the rest of summer and into the fall, and perhaps Bohanon and Shapen will have company. The best throw of the day came from Gold team QB CJ Rogers, who hit Cameron Bonner for a 77-yard touchdown.

Penn State

The Savior struggled: Earlier this week, I wrote about Penn State fans hoping incoming five-star freshman Drew Allar will be able to supplant veteran Sean Clifford for the starting QB job this season. Based on what we saw Saturday, however, they may want to temper those expectations. Like many teams, Penn State didn’t go with a traditional spring game, opting instead for an Offense vs. Defense approach with strange scoring rules, and Allar played a significant role in the defense’s 17-13 win.

Allar threw two interceptions in his Beaver Stadium debut, with backup QB Christian Veilleux having the stronger performance and solidifying his spot on the depth chart even further. But, as is the case for everything in this story, it’s just the spring game. It’s a glorified practice, and I’m sure I’d have more typos in this article if my editors forced me to write it on a jumbotron in front of thousands, too. Anyway, even with the struggles, Allar remains popular with the Penn State faithful.


USC set a spring game attendance record: There were 33,427 people who braved the Los Angeles traffic and made their way to the Coliseum for a glimpse of Lincoln Riley and Caleb Williams in USC paraphernalia, and they were not disappointed. However, they will likely be late for dinner because, seriously, the traffic situation in Los Angeles is terrible. At least they were treated to a good show and saw what they hoped to see, and maybe even helped themselves to a Caleb Williams t-shirt.

The offense beat the defense 34-27 after the defense was spotted a 21-0 lead, and while I don’t know what that says about the Trojans defense in 2022, who cares? Did you see Caleb Williams throw touchdowns to fellow Oklahoma transfer Mario Williams on the first two possessions?

Williams completed his first nine passes of the day, finishing 10 of 12 for 98 yards. He wasn’t the only USC QB to play well. After a slow start playing behind the second-string offensive line, Miller Moss also picked it up late in the game. The biggest highlight was a 48-yard touchdown pass to Kyle Ford, and Moss finished with 169 yards passing after completing 15 of his 20 attempts.

Throw in strong performances from running backs Travis Dye, Austin Jones and Darwin Barlow, and it was a promising performance all around for the offense.


Dillon Gabriel played well and Brent Venables fired up the faithful: Let me start by mentioning the attendance. If I write about more than 33,000 people showing up to USC’s spring game and don’t mention that 75,360 people who showed up for Oklahoma’s game, I will have angry schooners full of Sooners outside my door by sundown. Seriously, it was an electric atmosphere in Norman, as Venables took to the mic and gave a promo that was a raised eyebrow short of something The Rock would have done in his heyday.

As for the game, Gabriel played well in his Oklahoma debut. In a touching tribute to all those games you played with your friends growing up, Gabriel played the role of all-time QB for most of the afternoon and completed 19 of 28 passes for 250 yards and a touchdown. He also showed excellent mobility in the pocket behind an offensive line whose performance was spotty.

Perhaps the biggest star of the day on offense was running back Jovantae Barnes. The four-star freshman lived up to the billing, rushing for 60 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries. With neither Marcus Major nor Eric Gray getting time, it was a chance for Barnes to show what he can do, and there’s no doubt he impressed Sooners coaches with his performance.


Big plays and turnovers galore in Eugene: Dan Lanning’s first spring game at Oregon got off to an exciting start when transferring QB Bo Nix’s first pass went 70 yards to Seven McGee, who came up five yards short of six. The Ducks would finish the drive two plays later to give Yellow a 7-0 lead, and things never seemed to calm down from there.

The problem for Oregon is that when its offense wasn’t picking up chunk yards against the defense, it was turning the ball over. There were five turnovers in the game, with all three of Oregon’s quarterbacks playing apart. Nix finished with 230 yards on 8 of 15 passing with three touchdowns and a pick. Ty Thompson struggled, completing 12 of 27 passes for 168 yards, a score and two picks. Jay Butterfield was solid overall, throwing for 215 yards and a touchdown, but he also had an interception.

The good news is that there wasn’t a shortage of playmakers in the receiver corps or at running back, but I have to imagine Lanning would like to see his defense do a better job getting off the field when it doesn’t force a turnover once the real games start.


The backup QB battle was the star of the show: The Utah spring game had a lot in common with Utah’s Rose Bowl performance, thanks to the Utes being without a lot of first-teamers for the majority of the event. Cam Rising played only one series at QB, leading a touchdown drive and then handing the reins over to Ja’Quinden Jackson and Bryson Barnes. Barnes was one of Utah’s Rose Bowl heroes, as he replaced Rising in the game and gave the Utes a chance to win it.

The spring game was another tightly contested battle between him and Jackson. Barnes threw for 157 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 47 yards Saturday, while Jackson threw for 138 yards and two scores of his own.

“We will have a better idea [of the No. 2 QB],” said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham afterward. “I couldn’t tell you by observing it first hand out there but I thought they both did some really good things. Ja’Quinden Jackson has really made a ton of progress since he got here. He’s really starting to become a guy that looks like a quality quarterback but then Bryson Barnes made some big plays too. Hopefully we have a pecking order going into fall camp.”

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button