The first players availability of the 2020 season took place Friday, with upperclassmen Charleston Rambo, Creed Humphrey, DaShaun White and Delarrin Turner-Yell speaking with reporters in a Zoom conference.
Due to COVID-19, The Sooners' first game was moved to Sep. 12 — two weeks after the previous scheduled date of Aug. 29. Now just 22 days away from kickoff, OU players shared their thoughts on questions about the season, and the challenges of football during a pandemic.
Here's what Rambo, a member of the 2020 Biletnikoff preseason watch list, had to say Friday:
Challenges of playing football during a pandemic
Despite OU planning to have 25 percent capacity at football games this fall, some believe there won’t be fans at all this season. But players seem unfazed by the situation.
"I see the NBA, their bubble with virtual fans, but football is kind of different,” Rambo said. “We have a lot more fans. But regardless, no fans or with fans, us teammates, we’re our biggest fans. The sideline will be hype regardless. We're not too worried about fans by any means.”
Among other challenges OU has faced from COVID-19 is player health, with redshirt junior running back Kennedy Brooks deciding to opt out of the 2020 season. Regardless of fans or safety precautions made by OU, there’s still a risk with playing football.
“He has his reasons but we just gotta go with the flow, go with what we have,” Rambo said. “That’s between him and God. That’s his decision, we’re with him on everything. He’s still our brother regardless.”
One of those precautions has been the players wearing a mask underneath their helmets at practice.
“Our training staff is different from other training staffs,” Rambo said. “Other teams aren’t wearing masks under their helmets, but here we are wearing it for protection.
“We’ve been wearing it for so long that we kind of got used to it. So if we want to play ball, we have to wear a mask (to) be safe and protect each other.”
For some, football is their top priority, and without it, they’d lose the only sense of normalcy they have during a pandemic.
“It’s very important (to play football),” Rambo said. “Football is just a whole different life. A lot of people don’t see what football players go through to be able to do this. We sacrifice blood. So just being able to play the game — that's why I'm not opting out. I love the game of football, it’s just always been there for me.”
Improvements made offseason
Despite being listed at five pounds less than last season, Rambo said he has been working on being more physical and being more aware of where he is on the field this offseason.
“I feel better in my (yards after catch) and getting upfield. I feel more confident getting the ball upfield. Now I can see the defense."
Rambo, the presumed No. 1 receiver on the depth chart, is now playing the position that was previously manned by former Sooners CeeDee Lamb, Marquise Brown and Dede Westbrook to name a few.
“That’s motivation,” Rambo said. “It’s just eye-opening and just knowing I can do that next."
Unlike other great receivers to come through Norman, Rambo wasn’t widely known until a breakout game in the Orange Bowl against Alabama in the College Football Playoff. He was redshirted as a freshman, not playing a snap until his second season.
“It's been interesting and different from other guys,” Rambo said. “Everybody has a different role, but me sitting back and redshirting (allowed me to) learn a lot. I don't take that for granted, I learned a lot that year.
"I'm just implementing what they did in their game and implementing it into mine.”
New additions to wide receiver room
OU picked up two grad transfer receivers during the offseason: Theo Howard from UCLA and Obi Obialo from Marshall, both looking to make an immediate impact on the depleted Sooners receiving core.
“The pieces they brought in Theo (Howard), Obi (Obialo), those guys are some playmakers," Rambo said. "They’re making plays. ... We can use those guys.”