An opportunity awaits CeeDee Lamb this season.
It’s the same opportunity former OU receivers Sterling Shepard, Dede Westbrook and Marquise Brown took advantage of before him.
And it’s the one the OU offense needs him to take to be successful.
“He's gotta be one of those guys that makes that transition that I think all great teams have to have,” Sooner coach Lincoln Riley said. “Maybe a guy that's been a good player that has not had to lead in the past because there's always been somebody there and now all of a sudden, there's nobody there and if you don't do it, nobody's gonna do it.”
Lamb seems confident he’ll fill the leading receiver role Brown left vacant after deciding to forgo his senior season for the NFL draft.
Lamb’s 807 yards receiving and seven touchdown catches as a freshman in 2017 were a good sign he could one day emerge as a team leader.
His 1,158 yards receiving and team-high 11 touchdown catches last season were even more telling of his potential.
Riley says he's seen Lamb be more conscious of his veteran position and show flashes of being the go-to option. Although, it’s a role Lamb’s learned from watching the Sooner offense produce four-consecutive 1,000-yard receivers since Riley took over as the team’s offensive coordinator in 2015.
“I feel like here at OU we always have that 'next man up' mentality,” Lamb said. “You never know what's going to happen during the season. You have to prepare that the next guy behind you is ready to work.”
The responsibility might not be completely on Lamb. He’s surrounded by other veteran receivers and an influx of talented freshmen.
OU returns senior wideout Lee Morris and junior tight end Grant Calcaterra, who combined for 853 yards receiving and 14 touchdowns last year.
Senior receiver Nick Basquine is also back and healthy after averaging 19.1 yards per reception on seven catches in 2018.
OU brings in freshmen receivers Trejan Bridges, Jadon Haselwood and Theo Wease, who were all five-star prospects per Rivals.com, and four-star tight end Austin Stogner this offseason.
The Sooners’ talent-rich receiver and tight end groups ultimately give Lamb some sense of relief on the field.
“I don't worry too much about like how defenses are going to play us or me individually,” Lamb said, “because I know the next guys or the next group of receivers that are on the field with me are going to do their part and they're gonna they're gonna ball.”
Calcaterra feels the same as OU’s main tight end option.
He’ll have the 6-foot-7 Stogner to aid OU’s tight end depth just as he provided support as a freshman to former OU tight end Mark Andrews in 2017.
“I know that no matter who's on the field,” Calcaterra said, “we have a chance to win so it's a good feeling to have a lot of depth.”
OU’s receivers and tight ends don’t know who their quarterback will be yet with fall camp just starting Saturday.
The Sooners’ current quarterback derby includes Alabama transfer Jalen Hurts, redshirt freshman Tanner Mordecai, junior Tanner Schafer and freshman Spencer Rattler.
The winner of the job ultimately will have a group of receivers confident they can step up and support an offense as good as the last.
“We've done a great job here with that,” Lamb said. “Next guy stepping up, playing a big role, filling the shoes. So, we just try to keep that tradition going.”