2017 Oklahoma Wide Receiver Preview
Sterling Shepard and Dede Westbrook have left their footprints all over the Oklahoma offense. The two receivers exceeded 1000 receiving yards in their respective senior seasons as Lincoln Riley utilized both of them in a special way. Since moving to Oklahoma, Riley’s offense has been predicated on one receiver getting open with double-moves and long, deep play action passes. Well, Sterling Shepard and Dede Westbrook are no longer walking through that door. Mark Andrews is the leading receiver that is returning, and he did not gain more than 500 receiving yards a year ago.
This receiving corp is unique as they do not have a single receiver that has proven to take over a game yet. Will Lincoln Riley and Baker Mayfield spread the ball around the field? Will they use a committee of a few to get the job done? Will someone step in and be that 1000 yard receiver? These are the fair questions that many have for the guys that are set to replace two of the all-time greats at Oklahoma.
Projected Receiver Rotation
6’5″ 253 LBS
The “touchdown” machine is at the top of many early NFL boards as the best tight end prospect heading into this season. Andrews is relentless at gaining separation from defenders and completing tough catches. His lull during the 2016 season came from an injury stemming from a big hit he took against Ohio State early last season. Look for Andrews to continue to be Mayfield’s top target in the red-zone once again, but expect him to surpass the seven touchdowns and 489 yards receiving he had a year ago as he is truly a matchup nightmare for safeties.
6’0 182 LBS
The Z-Receiver position is the same one Dede Westbrook and Sterling Shepard held the last two seasons. Badet will not be the same caliber of receiver that his predecessors were, but his 670 receiving yards and 22 yards per catch in a run-heavy Kentucky offense will make some raise their eyebrows. His highlights from Kentucky show his cability to win one-on-one matchups–a huge part of Lincoln Riley’s offense.
Fans will be looking for that replacement of Shepard and Westbrook, and they may find that in Badet. Unfortunately for the grad transfer, Ohio State looms in week two and Mayfield will need Badet and every other playmaker ready.
5’11” 198 LBS
The Norman product has developed into one of Oklahoma’s safety blankets. The H-receiver is one that is unique in that Basquine will hardly ever be the primary target. He showed ability to make competitive catches early in the season last year, which earned him a full scholarship after starting his career as walk-on. The former walk-on to walk-on connection has grown as Mayfield looks to Basquine when a pressure third down situation presents himself. His role in Lincoln Riley’s will only continue to grow
6’5″ 187 LBS
Mead’s development has been slow, but he came on towards the end of last season. The X-receiver is the primary outside target, and Mead’s long, rangy body has a catch radius that is hard to deny. Mead is just one of those players that needed the light bulb to come on in his career. The catch and run in the Iowa State game set the table for him the rest of last year’s season. Mead had another touchdown in Morgantown, and concluded his season with two impressive catches against Auburn in the Sugar Bowl. His role is continuing to evolve, but look for the tall receiver to make an impact at some point next season.
5’11” 157 LBS
Marquise Brown was already a piece to the puzzle before Jeff Badet made his decision to transfer to Oklahoma. Brown has an electric highlight tape from his only year at the College of the Canyons in California. Some early question marks came in as he weighed under 150 pounds before he made it to Norman this spring for workouts and practice. However, that size matched with his ability to make defenders miss has drawn some early comparisons to former Sooner, Jalen Saunders. Brown will be competing with Badet as that Z-receiver, but he will be a part of Oklahoma’s success even if it is as a return man on special teams.
6’2.5″ 175 LBS
CeDarian “CeeDee” Lamb has generated the most buzz an Oklahoma incoming receiver has had since Kenny Stills stepped foot in Norman for the first time. The youngster was the top receiver in the state of Texas a year ago, and those covering high school recruits and football in Texas say Lamb is as close to a “sure thing” as any recent player to come out of that state. His HUDL film is easy to see why.
Lamb is growing some rave reviews this summer during player led “7-on-7”. His exact fit in Riley’s offense is still unknown, but one thing is for sure, Lamb will be on the field in his freshman year.
6’3″ 220 LBS
Another highly touted freshmen that has been on campus since January is Grant Calcaterra. His performance in the Spring Game showed why he might be Mark Andrews’ replacement when the touchdown machine moves on to the NFL after this year or next. Unlike Andrews, Calcaterra is a more fluid route runner and is a tad more athletic. When you think about a prospect to fit Oklahoma’s FLEX position, the Cali native is it. It will be interesting to see how involved he is in year one, but it will be hard to keep the freshman off the field.
5’11” 186 LBS
Jones had all the chances to show his game during his freshman season in 2016. However, he was hit-and-miss with his ability to get open off the line-of-scrimmage. The development of Nick Basquine may make it hard for Jones to make a huge impact in 2017, but he definitely has the ability to make the most out of his opportunities if given.
Names To Watch
6’2″ 170 LBS
Another piece to the 2017 class is looking to impress early in his career in Charleston Rambo. A lot like Lamb, Rambo has been getting some buzz in the player led “7-on-7” that goes on during the summer workouts. There may not be enough snaps to go around for Rambo in 2017, but the talented receiver may get some opportunities on Saturdays.
6’2″ 227 LBS
Smallwood had an opportunity in the Sugar Bowl for a touchdown, but Mayfield had an over-throw. The Oklahoma native has had a lackluster career in terms of career stats. Smallwood, however, can block as good as any receiver that Oklahoma has had in recent years. His best performance came in Bedlam a year ago as his blocking helped Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon rush for over 300 yards. Smallwood’s opportunities may be minuscule, but his blocking will help him get on the field in short yardage situations.
6’3″ 192 LBS
Miller’s performance against Ohio State in 2016 showed how good he could be. His inconsistency, however, has pushed him down on the depth chart. The 6’3″ receiver gets great separation from defenders and can run with elite athletes. The ability has never been the question with Miller, but his focus is what is hurting him from making plays on Saturdays. If the light bulb turns on, he will be getting majority of the snaps as the X or the Z receiver, as he is too talented not to.
No Shep, No Dede, No Panic
Oklahoma has a deeper, more talented receiving corp than they had a year ago with the additions of Jeff Badet, Marquise Brown, CeeDee Lamb, and Grant Calcaterra. Although unproven, Baker Mayfield will actually have more weapons to throw to if you also include Dimitri Flowers out of the backfield. Sterling Shepard and Dede Westbrook are not walking through the doors at Gaylord-Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium this year, but there is no need to panic.