Sooners continue to collect talent in offensive weapons arms race
Taking the mantle from Oklahoma’s most successful coach should have been a daunting task for 33-year old offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley. Bob Stoops’ surprise retirement in the summer of 2017 thrust Riley into one of the biggest jobs in college football. In the three seasons since, Riley has found the perfect balance of continuity from the Stoops era, while establishing his own brand. In turn, making him the hottest name in college coaching.
Sooners Excel On The Recruiting Trail
One area Oklahoma has particularly excelled at is recruiting and developing talent. The Sooners have routinely churned out elite NFL talent. Since the hiring of Riley the team has propelled itself into the top-10 recruiting classes each year. In addition, they have utilised the transfer portal to their advantage.
Riley’s offensive prowess has allowed his quarterback a regular shot at the Heisman trophy. All three of his one-year starters at the position enjoyed major success. Both Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray won the Heisman in 2017 and 2018 respectively. While Alabama transfer Jalen Hurts was runner up to Joe Burrow, who had arguably the greatest single season a college quarterback has turned in.
Having also lost number one receiver CeeDee Lamb to the NFL, the pressure is on the Sooners and Riley to continue to be one of the elite offenses in college football. In this piece we take a look at the names that hope to step up in 2020. We will then look at what the 2021 recruiting class has in store for the Sooners.
Rattler Set For Heisman Charge?
Despite the QB spot not being firmly decided, the favourite to claim it is Spencer Rattler. A five star recruit out of Pinnacle, Arizona he was the consensus no.1 QB in the 2019 recruiting cycle. Rattler also featured on Netflix’s QB1 series, where he demonstrated his immense talents along with a healthy dose of self-belief.
Rattler seems a perfect fit for Riley and has similarities to his predecessors at the position. He is an exciting mix of Mayfield and Murray. It’s unfair to compare his athleticism to an electric playmaker like Kyler but he has already shown glimpses of his escapability at Oklahoma.
His 6’0 frame would have been a negative in year’s past but thankfully the former Sooners are changing that narrative at the next level. Rattler has plenty of arm talent to make the offense tick and is comfortable making athletic throws on the move. Paired with Riley’s play calling we could be looking at another perfect match, something that should worry Big-12 competitors.
Rambo Ready To Lead The Line?
The departure of Lamb, a first round pick for the Dallas Cowboys, will be keenly felt in Norman. In light of the loss of such experience the Sooners sought to plug the gap with UCLA transfer Theo Howard. Howard’s injury profile is a concern and he rounded off a poor season health wise with an achilles problem this winter. Expected to return for the start of the season he should be paired with Charleston Rambo, the other member of the group with starting experience.
Rambo started 14 games in 2019, accounting for 743 yards and five touchdowns. Now in his fourth year in Oklahoma he will hope to take on the role of leading receiver. He’s a long strider, with good speed who is comfortable being a deep threat on the outside.
Despite a slight frame he isn’t afraid of contact and this play vs Texas Tech exemplifies that. Rambo shows off his ball tracking downfield knowing the defender is lining him up for a big shot. Not only does he absorb the hit he spins out and gets the yards after catch.
Early Injuries Could Affect Receiving Corps
There will also be expectations for 2019 recruits Jadon Haselwood and Theo Wease. The pair were both ranked in the top three at their position when they enrolled. Having played bit-parts in 2019 both will seek to break-out this year.
Haselwood will join Howard in the treatment room and looks set to miss the start of the season with a lower-body injury. Rumoured to be an ACL injury, it will be interesting to see the impact he can have.
If his return isn’t immediate then Wease could see a lot of targets early in the year. At 6’3 he is a difficult cover for opposing corners. Like Rambo, Wease isn’t afraid of contact. His physicality paired with his change of direction make him another yards after catch guy. Here are just a few examples of his play so far at Oklahoma.
Once Haselwood and Howard return, this could be one of the most talented receiver groups in the country.
The Future Is Bright
Despite having an array of talent on offense this season Riley and co haven’t taken their foot off the gas on the recruiting trail. Although only ranked in the 20’s so far, the Sooners have targeted elite talent at the skill positions.
The star of their class is yet to fully commit but with an announcement expected shortly, Oklahoma appears to be at the front of the line for QB1 Caleb Williams. Williams is a departure from the diminutive prospect Riley has targeted previously. Despite having a more prototypical size, Williams is still a talented runner while he is capable of special plays in the passing game.
Although Riley has excelled with reclamation projects at QB his recruiting of Rattler and Williams could take his team to the next level. Riley’s coaching scheme helped elevate and develop Mayfield and Murray, his two newest projects arguably have better raw tools in place to be spectacularly good in this offense.
Five Star Surrounding Talent
Along with Williams the Sooners will be seeking to surround him with elite playmakers. They made waves last weekend when they got a firm commitment from one of the top receivers in the country, Mario Williams.
Williams has a smaller build but doesn’t let that stop him from winning in contested situations when needed. That wasn’t that often considering Williams showed off his long speed to often take the top of defenses in high school. He has shown glimpses of being a strong route runner already and his recruitment was an early feather in Oklahoma’s cap.
They will also hope they can persuade top-rated running back Camar Wheaton to be the long term replacement to current running back Kennedy Brooks. Wheaton is a track athlete with a smooth running style. He can change direction effortlessly and has true deep speed that makes him difficult to catch. Listed at 190lbs, he should have no problem in becoming a strong all-round back at the next level.
Should Riley nab Wheaton to add to the two Williams’s he will have an enviable trio to build his future offense around. With Rattler and co. ready for this year and the production line in full operation for 2021 onwards, don’t expect the Sooners offense to go into reverse any time soon.
formerly writing for the inside zone, rory will be breaking down college tape and keeping you up-to-date with all things CFB for the touchdown. an avid bengals fan, you can also find some of rory’s work at stripehype.com.