Analysis: Levi Williams’ spring audition derailed
We had some questions heading into spring football.
The COVID-19, also known as coronavirus, has likely shut that down though an official announcement from the school has not yet been made. Wyoming quarterback Sean Chambers did Tweet this Monday though:
Here are a few things we were looking forward to seeing:
- Who will line up next to Chad Muma and fill the enormous shoes of Logan Wilson and Cassh Maluia at linebacker?
- Who will replace Wyoming's all-time leading scorer, Cooper Rothe?
- What will the receiving corps look like without Raghib Ismail, Austin Conway and John Okwoli?
- Will Levi Williams take full advantage of being the lone quarterback this spring?
- Who are the Cowboys' play makers at the wide receiver position?
That, and plenty more.
In this series, we will dissect those queries. No, we won't get to talk to the players or coaches, but we can dive into the numbers and possibilities.
Let's start with the most important position on the field -- the quarterback.
LARAMIE -- If things went as planned, redshirt freshman Levi Williams would've gotten the bulk of the snaps this spring.
By bulk, we mean likely all.
Sean Chambers is still not 100 percent recovered from a left leg injury that ended his season in Week 8. The fresh-faced kid from Canyon Lake, Texas -- coming off a three-touchdown performance in a victorious Arizona Bowl -- was going to have a golden opportunity to take the reins of the Cowboys' offense.
Now, likely the next time the team convenes, probably sometime in early August, both signal callers should be 100 percent.
There's good and bad news in that for Williams.
The good: the two can challenge and push each other throughout fall camp. And, let's be real, there's not one thing wrong with both of those guys being fully healthy and ready to compete.
The bad: Williams had a real chance to show that his performance in Tucson wasn't a fluke. Plus, he would've received literally hundreds of additional snaps, reads and throws.
Williams will be doing all of that from home deep in the heart of the Lone Star State, but it's different when you have your receivers, backs and blockers.
Let's break down Williams' sample size in 2019:
- The true freshman completed nearly 49 percent of his passes, connecting on 19-of-39 throws for 343 yards.
- Williams tossed three touchdown passes, all in the first half of the Arizona Bowl. He also threw two interceptions. One came that day deep in Georgia State territory.
- The 6-foot, 5-inch, 208-pounder proved to be a punishing runner a times, especially during crucial moments of a 17-7 win over Border War rival Colorado State in Williams' first collegiate game. He carried the ball 40 times for 181 yards and two scores in parts of three games. That's an average of 4.5 yards per tote.
- Williams' most important stat -- 1-0 as a starter. That came in Tucson, showing that the kid can turn it on when the lights get bright.
“He was composed, made a lot of big plays,” Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl said after the 38-17 win over Georgia State. “Had a couple of things that we wish we could have had back. For a freshman, or for any quarterback, I thought he played with great poise and composure.”
Xazavian Valladay, the Offensive MVP of the Arizona Bowl, had this to say about the youngster.
“He was a great leader,” Valladay said. “Being just a freshman, stepping up on the big stage like this, just being able to just to do the things a quarterback, they have to do, just knowing everything and where everybody has to be on the field. My hat’s off to him. He has a bright future.”
But when does that future start?
During a press conference in early February, Bohl admitted he had a problem on his hands albeit a good one. He knows he has a ton of talent under center whether it's Williams or Chambers.
“We are in a really good position,” Bohl said. “Both are mobile and give us a lot more flexibility on the play sheet … Their dual threat warrants both get a really hard look.”
He even said there is a chance you could see both of them play.
Williams has serious upside. Yes, he can make plays with his feet. He's tough as nails, too. Just re-watch that heave to Ayden Eberhardt before the half in Tucson. Williams also proved to be the lone Cowboy gunslinger last season who could consistently get the job done with his right arm.
Check this out.
Tyler Vander Waal and Chambers combined to complete 47.3 percent of their passes. The duo combined to throw just eight touchdowns in 12 regular-season starts.
How about a comparison?
Joe Burrow, LSU's national champion quarterback, Heisman Trophy winner and likely the No. 1 pick of the Cincinnati Bengals in next month's NFL Draft, threw seven touchdowns -- in the first half -- against Oklahoma in the Peach Bowl.
Chambers tossed two touchdown passes in a game twice in his eight starts. Three times, the first three games of the 2019 season, Chambers failed to throw one, while completing just 38.4 percent of his passes.
Vander Waal, who is now at Idaho State, threw his lone score of the season in a relief appearance after Chambers went down against Nevada.
Wyoming's passing offense, for a number of reasons, ranked at or near the bottom of the FBS standings through much of the season.
In fact, if it wasn't for Williams' 234-yard day through the air in Tucson, the Cowboys would've finished behind Air Force in that category for the second straight year.
Yes, the Falcons. The triple-option team that runs the ball 60-plus times per outing.
Bohl likes to joke that he won't be confused with Mike Leach anytime soon. The "air-raid" offense is not coming to Laramie. However, even the seventh-year coach at UW will be the first to tell you the Cowboys need to be more efficient in the passing game. Way more.
Chambers will tell you the same. So will Williams.
These next two months could've doubled as a springboard for Williams into next season. He could've solidified some decisions. He could've found continuity with a plethora of young, eager receivers. He could've mastered, and still likely will, the Cowboys' complex offensive playbook.
Coulda. Shoulda. Woulda.
The world-wide pandemic put a halt to all of that.
What the coronavirus can't touch, however, is the confidence gained in that Arizona Bowl victory. Williams will take full advantage of the NCAA's two-year-old rule allowing freshmen to play in up to four games without losing a season of eligibility.
Williams gets to mash the restart button again this fall, the same way Chambers did a year prior.
This QB battle will be the talk of the offseason. We likely won't get an answer until the offense trots onto the field to take on Weber State Sept. 5 at War Memorial Stadium.
This virus really took away a big opportunity for Williams to get a step ahead.