ARLINGTON, Texas — Among the abundance of media, players and coaches roaming the field of AT&T Stadium on day one of Big 12 Media Days were three wide receivers that represented the Big 12's reputation of elite passing attacks: Oklahoma's CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma State's Tylan Wallace and TCU's Jalen Reagor.
The Biletnikoff Award is given to the nation's best wide receiver annually, and since 2007, a Big 12 receiver has won it seven times. Also in that span, only two players one the award twice — Texas Tech's Michael Crabtree in 2007 and 2008, and Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon in 2010 and 2011. In six of those years, two of the three finalists were from Big 12 schools. In 2008, all three were from Big 12 schools.
Any way one looks at it, the Big 12 produces elite wideout prospects year in and year out. According to Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley, there's not one simple answer for why. Instead, he said the blossoming of wide receivers throughout the conference is the result of multiple other factors.
“I think the different offensive minds in this conference have attracted great wide receivers, really good quarterback play has attracted it and they are put in systems to where they can maximize their talents," Riley said. "It’s been a historic run in the Big 12 for receivers. There’s a lot of household names and I’m sure there’s going to be some names that no one is talking about right now that will establish themselves next year.
"You feel like every week in the Big 12 you have to cover an elite receiver. It’s every single week.”
One of the Big 12's elite receivers that Riley is fortunate enough to not have to worry about covering is the Sooners' own Lamb. Going into his junior year, Lamb finally will have the opportunity to be the top receiving target for a historically prolific Oklahoma offense.
As a true freshman, Lamb emerged as a solid target for 2017 Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield. He hauled in 46 catches for 807 yards, which ranked third on the team in both categories. Along with that, his seven receiving touchdowns tied for second on the team. This earned him a spot on ESPN's Freshman All-American Team.
Lamb made significant leaps in his sophomore year in nearly every category, upping his stats to 65 catches for 1,158 yards and 11 touchdowns. He capped off his season with a spectacular performance in Oklahoma's 45-34 Orange Bowl loss to Alabama with eight receptions, 109 yards and a touchdown. Despite all of this, Lamb was still widely seen as the second option behind First Team All-American Marquise "Hollywood" Brown.
With Brown gone for the NFL — drafted by the Baltimore Ravens with the No. 25 pick — Lamb is the presumptive top receiver for graduate transfer Jalen Hurts. He was named as a member of the preseason All-Big 12 Team, and he's ready to take on a bigger role.
"I'm obviously more focused on my leadership role and trying to be successful in every part of the game," Lamb said. "That's when it comes to blocking, being in the film room or even just running routes. It's all about bettering myself every day."
Lamb also even said that winning the Biletnikoff award is a goal of his for 2019. But before even looking to other wideouts outside of the Big 12, Lamb had some stiff competition participating in Big 12 Media Days on Monday, with Wallace and Reagor representing their own schools.
Wallace was one of three finalists for the Biletnikoff in 2018 and had more receptions, yards and touchdowns than Lamb. Reagor had more receptions, but less yards and touchdowns than Lamb. Lamb said he enjoyed playing in a conference with multiple elite peers, but he doesn't let what his opponents do affect him.
“At the end of the day it’s just me competing against myself," Lamb said. "During the preseason, I would never use someone else to motivate me. All the work I’m putting in during the preseason will show itself during the season.”
Wallace and Reagor both have different mindsets about the Big 12's loaded receiver group. Wallace actively enjoys the competition and comparisons between the different stars, and even said thinking about his opponents motivates him to work harder.
“It’s definitely fun (to play against other elite receivers)," Wallace said. "I mean, going out there you just never know what kind of stats the other guys are going to put up. So it’s just fun to compete and see where you end up ranking and to see how one guy does compared to the others. Just being out there and really going at it every week.”
Reagor takes the exact opposite approach to Wallace. He said he never thinks about what other players are doing and only focuses on himself in order to succeed, because he's friends with other receivers around the conference.
“CeeDee and Tylan are my friends," Reagor said. "Seeing them succeed is what I want for everybody. I don’t wish bad on anyone. That’s why I don’t worry about stuff like ‘who’s the best receiver?’ We’re all good.”
So, who is the best wide receiver in the Big 12? It depends on who you ask.
"Me." Lamb said.
"Nah, I'm gonna have to go with me." Wallace said.
Reagor took a safer approach to the question.
"I don't concern myself with that."