In 2015, Baker Mayfield connected with Sterling Shepard on the outside. In 2016, Mayfield found Dede Westbrook running deep. Shepard and Westbrook are two of the best to ever catch a pass in Oklahoma Sooners football history. It was amazing enough to go from one guy to the next, but back-to-back is hardly a trend. That being said, I’m here to tell you that you should expect the Oklahoma offense to be just as lethal going forward in 2017 when it comes to their outside weaponry, namely in wide receivers Jeff Badet in CeeDee Lamb.
Coming into the 2017 season, Badet and Lamb had one major thing in common: both were newcomers to the Oklahoma program. In Badet’s case, however, he was a graduate transfer from Kentucky, and had already logged some serious playing time in big-time college football over the past few seasons. Meanwhile, Lamb was playing for Foster High School in Richmond, Texas this time last year, so the collegiate experience is entirely new for him.
So what happens when you mix a group of new but talented players with a Heisman Trophy finalist QB and an award-winning play caller like Lincoln Riley? After two games, we’re beginning to find out.
Jeff Badet’s calling card is his speed. He may not be as lightning fast as Westbrook was, but he can still create separation from defenders by turning on the jets. Take a look at this example of his speed as he gets downfield in a hurry.
Even though it’s against UTEP, you can still see Badet’s acceleration jump off the screen. The defender’s attempt to slow him down provides little resistance, and in seconds Badet is already behind the defense. Mayfield underthrows this ball (or perhaps just should have thrown it earlier), otherwise it easily could have been a touchdown. Badet speed and acceleration were also on display again in Columbus, where he made plenty of big plays to move the sticks.
Something else about Badet’s game that has already shown up in each of the first two games is his superb concentration. In his catch I highlighted earlier, Badet had to focus to bring in the disrupted ball. There is also this example of his concentration:
Notice how Badet appears focused purely on the ball. While that isn’t wrong, it doesn’t tell the whole story. Before this point in the play, Badet had to calculate where he was on the field and how much room he was going to have to make this grab. This process happens in the matter of a second or two. Once Badet knows where he is, his priority is completing the reception. Upon further review, the catch is good.
Now what does true freshman CeeDee Lamb bring to the table? Well to be completely honest, Lamb looks every bit like the total receiving package. His route-running ability is strong and he’s incredibly sure-handed. However, what has impressed me most about Lamb’s game is his physical and mental toughness when contact is imminent. Check out this prime example of what I’m referring to:
First off, Lamb uses his quick footwork to get off the line and around the cornerback. Once Lamb beats his man, he finds the vacant area to get himself open. Mayfield promptly finds Lamb and delivers a dart right on the money. Lamb leaps for the ball and catches it with his hands before a converging defender deals the freshman a solid hit. Lamb is unfazed, and the drive continues.
It is easy to see that he is not the most stout player on the field, but his ability to absorb contact reminds me of Dede Westbrook’s. Here is yet another example of Lamb’s toughness:
Against Ohio State, whose roster filled with 4 and 5-star recruits, Lamb is able to not only get open over the middle, but take the ensuing contact as well. This kind of resilience will come in handy in big moments, and Lamb has proven that he is ready for the big stage.
So if you had any concerns about new receivers stepping up, you should feel more at peace with Badet and Lamb on the outside. This is all without even mentioning the plethora of other pass catchers that Baker Mayfield has to throw to (we need not remind you that Mark Andrews and Dimitri Flowers are beasts). No matter how much turnover Oklahoma has from one season to the next, the deep balls and big receptions remain threats.
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