USC coach Lincoln Riley has established himself as one of the top offensive coaches in the sport. The 39-year-old head coach of the Trojans was Oklahoma's boss when Baker Mayfield (2017) and Kyler Murray (2018) won the Heisman Trophy, as well as when Jalen Hurts went to New York as a finalist in 2019. Riley took over at USC last season and helped guide sophomore quarterback Caleb Williams to college football's most prestigious individual prize.
Simply put, he's a quarterback whisperer. So what would a perfect quarterback look like to Riley? That was among the topics discussed during his appearance on the "All Things Covered" podcast with Patrick Peterson and Bryant McFadden.
It starts with attitude, and Mayfield -- Riley's first signal-caller in Norman -- is the clear-cut winner of this game.
"I would say Baker's moxie and energy and how infections he was," Riley said. "And I would also say Baker's kind of memory and recall."
Riley, of course, said Murray has the speed factor. The starter for the NFL's Arizona Cardinals didn't run at the NFL combine or pro day in 2019. He did, however, reportedly post a 4.37 hand-timed 40-yard dash at Oklahoma in 2017 -- his redshirt sophomore year in college.
Hurts can move as well, as we saw in 2019 when he had 1,298 yards rushing as a senior signal-caller for the Sooners. As if that wasn't enough proof, he rushed for 903 yards and 18 touchdowns with the Philadelphia Eagles last year, including 70 yards and three touchdowns in Super Bowl LVII. Riley knows that Hurts is one of the most complete players that he ever coached.
"Jalen's consistency, professionalism, kind of his approach and then his durability," Riley said.
Williams threw for 4,537 yards, rushed for 382 yards, and scored 55 touchdowns last season during his run to the Heisman Trophy. The rising junior will enter this season as one of the game's biggest stars, and according to most experts he could be a high first-round draft pick if he chooses to leave Los Angeles after the 2023 season. It's safe to say that if Riley is building the perfect quarterback, Williams has some of those traits as well.
"I would say Caleb's natural arm talent and probably his ability to make people miss and escape both in the pocket and out," Riley said. "If you have that combination, you're going to win some games."
He already did. Williams and Riley led the Trojans to the Pac-12 Championship Game and a berth in the Cotton Bowl in 2022 after posting an 11-2 regular-season record. Based on Riley's comments about Williams and their success last season in Los Angeles, the best might be yet to come.