The University of Oklahoma has been an offensive juggernaut in recent memory and is widely acclaimed for its ability to produce quarterbacks and offensive linemen. The program has a storied history at the receiver position as well, with back-to-back first-round picks in CeeDee Lamb and Hollywood Brown following other recent successes in Sterling Shepard, Dede Westbrook, and Ryan Broyles. The next receiver that could emerge from the Norman wide receiver pipeline is redshirt junior Charleston Rambo.
Rambo was a standout wide receiver recruit from Cedar Hills, Texas. The former four-star recruit had over 2,000 receiving yards and 29 total touchdowns in his last two high school seasons, including a breakout senior season where Rambo finished with 1,590 yards and 25 total touchdowns. Rivals ranked Rambo over two first-round receivers from last season in Henry Ruggs III and Jalen Reagor, and 24/7 ranked Rambo over speedster KJ Hamler.
Rambo enjoyed a breakout game against Alabama in the Orange Bowl in 2018. With Brown hurt, Rambo had to step up to give Oklahoma life opposite of Lamb. Rambo posted 74 yards on 3 catches, including this memorable touchdown from Kyler Murray.
With Brown’s selection to the Baltimore Ravens in the 2019 NFL Draft, the time came for Rambo to step up to fill that void opposite of Lamb. In 2019, Rambo finished second on the team in targets, yards, and touchdowns, wrapping up the season with 743 yards and 5 touchdowns.
While those numbers aren’t eye-popping, Rambo had to compete with Lamb, and Hurts’ limitations as a passer frequently inhibited Rambo’s big-play ability on several occasions last season. With Lamb out of the picture and a much-ballyhooed QB in Spencer Rattler, who looks to be a better passer than Hurts was, Rambo’s opportunities and production should take a step forward in 2020 in preparation for the 2021 NFL Draft.
How Charleston Rambo wins
Right off the bat, Rambo wins the “All-Name” team accolade. Charleston Rambo, off of name alone, is destined to be great.
Rambo has been a big-play threat at the Z spot for Oklahoma. His deep speed is impressive, as he eats space up in a hurry. Rambo can destroy defensive angles with his speed and ankle-snapping agility in open space. Rambo has the ability to completely alter the coverage with his speed. While Rambo may not be the blazing 4.2 40 receiver that Brown was, Rambo is a 4.3 player for certain-similar to Westbrook in that regard.
— Sooner Gridiron (@soonergridiron) September 15, 2019
His run after catch ability is another nice feather in his cap. Rambo demolishes pursuit angles with his speed. The smooth change of direction that Rambo possesses as well as good vision in the open field lets Rambo make defenders miss with ease.
Added: CharlesChaCharleston Rambo is a very natural route-runner. He repeatedly demonstrated the ability to sink down in his routes in a hurry. He snaps in and out of his brakes with practiced ease. The Sooners have done an excellent job developing players as route-runners, and Rambo is no exception to that rule. Slants, digs, posts, and drag routes are Rambo’s bread and butter, and he repeatedly broke open on these routes last season.
On double-moves, Rambo was lethal. Defenders had to respect Rambo’s speed, and he does an excellent job of selling vertically before sinking down and bursting through the corners, leaving them in the dust.
Another impressive trait that Rambo possesses is his ball tracking downfield and body control. Standing at 6-foot-2, Rambo has great size and length to pluck the ball out of the air. While he isn’t the Cirque du Soleil contortionist that Lamb was, Rambo demonstrated exceptional ability to adjust and control his body to make plays along the sideline and in critical areas.
Rambo has the speed to break open defenses, but you have to be able to build off of that speed to be an elite deep threat. Rambo pairs that speed with the impressive body control and ball tracking that makes the speed pay off downfield.
This play against Kansas State demonstrates Rambo’s entire skillset well. He eats up turf in a hurry off the line of scrimmage, getting downfield nearly 40 yards in a hurry. Hurts throws this with some touch and puts it up high for Rambo to snag. Rambo gets his eyes turned around, sinks down, leaps up, and uses his catch radius to highpoint and secure the ball, then neatly tucks it in to keep away from the defenders.
Areas where Rambo can improve
Rambo is quite exceptional at most things a wide receiver needs to do, but there are some things that he has to add to his skillset in order to become a top-flight receiver prospect.
Rambo has to get better at beating press coverage. While Rambo can eat up cushion and blow by defenders vertically, physical corners can jam him up and reroute him at the line of scrimmage. While Rambo got better in this area towards the end of last season, he has to consistently showcase this ability next season. Unfortunately, Rambo likely won’t see enough press coverage in the Big 12 to demonstrate this trait very often. Jeremy Pruitt’s physical defense at Tennessee could be Rambo’s biggest challenge.
To clarify, there are two areas against press that Rambo can improve. Both of these areas can be coached up and solved, but they often separate the good players from the great ones. Rambo has to get stronger so he can’t get as re-routed as easily by physical corners. Improving strength while not decreasing his speed is a delicate balance, but Rambo’s frame is way too lean at the moment (currently listed at 6’2, 180).
Getting better at using his hands at his release point off the line of scrimmage will also help Rambo. I like his release with his footwork and fluidity, but improving in those two areas will help him in the long run.
Rambo had a few drops last season but was generally sure-handed. Tightening up those few drops will also be a priority.
Conclusion and expectations
Rambo will continue to play at the Z receiver spot for Oklahoma next year, but he returns as the most experienced receiver for the team. With Lamb now in Dallas, Rambo emerges as the expected WR1, which brings on high expectations.
With Spencer Rattler coming in as a high ceiling as a passer with an incredible arm, Rambo’s ability as a deep threat will be a prominent feature in the Sooners offense. He’ll play a large part in getting back to the high-flying, high-octane offense that Oklahoma fans are accustomed to.
I liken this situation to the Shepard/Westbrook situation from a few years ago. When Shepard entered the NFL Draft, he left many with questions about who will step up to fill his role. Westbrook entered the spotlight and emerged as the Biletnikoff winner and a Heisman finalist. While I’m not saying that Rambo will be quite that successful, he has the talent and opportunity to emerge as one of the best playmakers in college football next season.