Lincoln Riley is entering his fourth season as the head coach of the Oklahoma Sooners and his sixth at OU overall. While it’s still early in his career, he’s already firmly established himself as the top offensive mind in all of college football. The amount of production he’s been able to generate from his elite play-calling has coaches from all levels of the sport flocking to Norman to pick his brain and learn how he’s built some of the most efficient offenses in the history of the game.
A major reason why Riley’s offenses have been so successful is the talented crop of pass-catchers his Heisman Trophy-level QBs have had the luxury of targeting. From wideouts to tight ends and even fullbacks/H-Backs, the list of play-making receivers over the past few years is deep and continues to grow with each passing season. For now, here are the top 10 pass-catchers in the Riley era (since he arrived as an OC in 2015).
For the purposes of this discussion, we’re going to take halfbacks out of the equation. Otherwise, Joe Mixon would certainly be in the running.
Receiver to Watch
Jadon Haselwood, WR (2019-present)
If any receiver on the current roster is to challenge for a top-three spot on this list in years to come, Jadon Haselwood might be your best bet. For a wideout, this rising sophomore flat-out runs angry. He’s constantly looking to make the most out of every play when the ball is in his hands, and that’s gotten him into a little trouble a time or two. Still, he has a chance to be the most formidable jump-ball receiver in recent memory (or ever), and he was rated the No. 1 WR in the class of 2019 for a reason. It’s hard to find many weaknesses in his game. As a true freshman, he racked up 272 yards and one TD on 19 catches, but expect that number to go WAY up in 2020. This also goes for Theo Wease, who has a chance to be elite in his own right.
The Top 10
10. Nick Basquine, WR (2014-19)
By the time he finally called it a career, Nick Basquine was the elder statesman in the OU locker room. The Norman native walked on for the team back in 2014, took a redshirt year, then practiced his way onto the field for his first opportunity in 2016. Things were looking up for this hometown receiver, but back-to-back Achilles tendon injuries sidelined him for the entire 2017 season. He would make a comeback in 2018 and earned an extra year of eligibility in 2019 to wrap up his six-year run on a more positive note.
When it was all said and done, Basquine hauled in 46 catches for 674 yards and three scores. However, with him it wasn’t all about the numbers, rather it was his leadership and his never-give-up attitude that makes him one of the more exemplary Sooners to come through the Palace on the Prairie in recent memory.
9. Charleston Rambo, WR (2017-present)
Besides having one of the best names on the team, Charleston Rambo has done some remarkable things for the Sooners with the ball in his hands. Though he’s not quite as fast as a Hollywood Brown, he’s a quick-twitched athlete who can do serious damage if he gets behind a defense. In two seasons, he’s amassed 868 yards and six TDs on 51 receptions.
After racing out to a fast start in 2019, he came back down to earth in the second half of the season. Still, he’s a talented receiver who figures to be a leader for a young pass-catching corps in 2020.
8. Lee Morris, WR (2016-19)
For a player who saw the field as much as Lee Morris did, his catch-to-TD ratio is highly impressive. The Allen, Texas native was once a teammate of Kyler Murray’s in high school before they reunited once again at Oklahoma. Lee began his college career as a walk-on, but his determination prevailed as he eventually earned a scholarship after proving his mettle on the field. In three seasons, Morris recorded 848 yards and 11 touchdowns on just 41 catches.
7. Grant Calcaterra, TE (2017-19)
It’s unfortunate Grant Calcaterra wasn’t able to finish his collegiate career on his terms due to his unlucky history with concussions, but even with his junior season being cut short, he’s still one of the top pass-catcher in the Riley era. He wasn’t the biggest tight end the Sooners have had in recent memory, but he seemed to have a knack for making big plays when they mattered most. His game-clinching one-handed TD grab in the 2018 Big 12 Championship will go down in Red River lore as he sealed the deal in the rematch against arch-rival Texas. In a little over two seasons played, Calc totaled 41 receptions for 637 yards and nine scores.
6. Dimitri Flowers, FB (2014-17)
Although receiving was far from the only thing Dimitri Flowers was tasked with during his four seasons at OU, he was an incredible weapon with the ball in his hands. Playing out of the H-back/fullback position, he often flew under the radar, but time and again he proved to be arguably the most dangerous player on the field. When he wasn’t blocking outside or on the edge, or taking a hand-off in the backfield, he was in space making plays down the field. Also, for a guy his size, he could really scoot with sneaky good speed. In four seasons, he caught 54 passes for 886 yards and 13 touchdowns.
5. Mark Andrews, TE (2014-17)
He’s big, he’s strong, but he’s not from Krypton. Mark Andrews is a quarterback’s best friend, and while he was at Oklahoma, his best bud at QB was Baker Mayfield. At 6’5” and over 250 pounds, this Arizona native was a nightmare mismatch for three seasons. His size alone made it tough for defenders to bring him down, but his exceptional route-running and football savviness gave him the leg up on just about everyone he went up against. In three years, Andrews compiled 1,765 yards and 22 scores on 112 receptions before moving on to the next level with the Baltimore Ravens. Things are going swimmingly in the NFL, as Andrews was able to earn a Pro Bowl spot this past season.
4. Sterling Shepard, WR (2012-15)
Here’s where the list gets really tough. One of the most beloved Sooners to come through Norman in the last five years is also an Oklahoma legacy and one of the greatest competitors in program history. For four seasons, Sterling Shepard was like a pro on the field, and it was obvious. There’s something to be said about doing the little things right, such as proper footwork, crisp route-running, catching the ball with your hands. Shep did all of that at a textbook level, but he also added his unique flare for making the ordinary look spectacular.
Following in his late father Derrick Shepard’s footsteps, Sterling came to OU and established a reputation for himself as a playmaker his team could count on in critical moments. Although he wasn’t the fastest receiver you’ll see on this list, nor the biggest, every Saturday the dude did damage. When it was all said and done, Shepard piled up the stats across the board with a total of 233 receptions, 3,482 yards and 26 touchdowns. Today, he’s with the New York Giants as a fifth-year veteran.
3. Marquise Brown, WR (2017-18)
There’s fast, and then there’s Marquise “Hollywood” Brown fast. Since Riley first arrived at OU, there hasn’t been another receiver who’s been able to do the things this man could do on a football field. If he found any bit of space against a defense, it was over. Not only does Brown possess elite acceleration, his top end speed is worthy of some of the best track stars to ever put on pads.
In the two seasons he tore it up for the Sooners, Brown amassed 132 catches for 2,413 yards and 17 TDs. Today, he’s burning professional DBs with Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens.
2. Dede Westbrook, WR (2015-16)
There’s only one Oklahoma player who has been recognized as the nation’s most outstanding receiver by winning the Fred Biletnikoff Award, and his name is Dede Westbrook. In fact, not only did this big-play machine bring home the hardware in 2016, he also finished the season as a Heisman Trophy finalist. Seeing his blend of pure speed and body control was like watching poetry in motion, and for good measure he also ran with serious toughness whenever he was met with a defender in the open field.
Speaking of Westbrook’s senior campaign at OU, it can be argued that it was the single greatest season for any Sooner receiver ever. Beyond all the honors and accolades, his 17 TD receptions in 2016 ranks first in program history, and his 1,524 yards ranks second only behind the legendary Ryan Broyles. Quite frankly, there may not be another season that comes close to Dede’s scintillating run at Oklahoma, statistically, for some time. For his two-year career, he finished with a total of 2,267 yards and 21 scores on 126 catches. Presently, he’s entering his third season with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
1. CeeDee Lamb, WR (2017-19)
It says a lot about how special a player is when you can comfortably rank him higher than Sterling, Hollywood and Dede, and in this case that player is none other than CeeDee Lamb. In three years at OU, this super star receiver hauled in 173 receptions for 3,292 yards and 32 touchdowns.
Standing at 6’2” and 198 pounds, he has all the physical tools you looks for in a prototypical wide receiver, but he also possesses enough speed and agility to makes defenders miss. Heck, even when guys are literally on top of him, that sometimes not enough to bring him down. Lamb’s hands are also a major strength that separates him from most others, and going into the 2020 NFL Draft he’s being projected by many for an early first round pick.
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