Oklahoma quarterbacks aren’t the only facet of Lincoln Riley’s offense turning heads in the NFL.
The 37-yard old architect of one of college football’s most explosive offenses has garnered a reputation for producing ready-made pass catchers.
In just the past four years, Mark Andrews, Marquise Brown and CeeDee Lamb have all made instant impacts on football’s biggest stage.
Jim Mora Jr.— former head coach of the Seattle Seahawks, Atlanta Falcons and UCLA Bruins and current NFL Draft analyst for ESPN and Sports Illustrated — said that Riley’s reputation makes it much easier to attract the nation’s elite receivers for the Sooner staff to develop.
“If you go to Oklahoma, you know a few things if you’re a wide receiver. Number one, you have an incredibly creative and innovative head coach who’s going to find ways to get you open,” Mora said. “Number two, you’re going to have a quarterback slinging it to you that is probably going to be in the Heisman conversation every single year because that’s what it’s been. And number three, it’s going to be a fun environment to play in.
“You’re going to play in big games, you’re going to get national recognition, which leads to production and it leads to you becoming a first round draft pick.”
Lamb, the most recent product of the Oklahoma offense factory, certainly proved he was NFL ready from day one. He went on to register 74 catches for 935 yards and five touchdowns while dealing with the revolving door that was the Dallas Cowboys quarterback situation in his rookie year.
Riley and his wide receivers coaches, Dennis Simmons and Cale Gundy, pay special attention to route running precision and demand consistency, allowing pass catchers to leave Norman prepared for the talent jump to the NFL, Mora said.
“Precision and route running is important. Having the cohesiveness between the quarterback and the receiver to know that the guy’s going to be in the right spot at the right time is critically important,” Mora said. “Lincoln Riley and his staff is a group of people that they demand those things.
“Their players embrace it and therefore they’re ready to go.”
More with Mora:
- Oklahoma's defense has undergone a complete culture change, Mora says
- Creed Humphrey is firmly entrenched in first round discussions
Oklahoma receivers have been able to shed the stigma that playing in a spread offense doesn’t properly prepare them for the next level, too.
How Riley designs his offense has helped his players make the quick jump to being productive on Sunday’s, Mora said.
“Lincoln teaches the same types of concepts,” Mora said. “I think it’s just the attention to detail. It’s the player development. It’s being demanding.
“Saying ‘listen, this is how you run a slant. You hit it on your fourth step with you outside foot and you it this angle or you flatten it if there’s man,’ and you demand there is a consistency to that route.”
Heading into 2021, Riley has again stocked the wide receiver room with guys who have a shot to make it in the NFL.
Tight end Austin Stogner has used every bit of his 6-foot-6 frame to haul in 33 catches for 488 yards and five touchdowns during his first two seasons for the Sooners. Former 5-star prospects Jadon Haselwood and Theo Wease also have a chance to take a step forward this season and play a huge role in the offense. That trio will be paired with breakout true freshman surprise of a year ago, Marvin Mims, who caught 37 passes for 610 yards and nine touchdowns for Riley.
Expectations are high for the Sooners in 2021 for good reason, and Riley’s ability to continually produce elite playmakers to catch the football could help elevate OU’s ceiling even higher.