We know these are not timely, but we’re still providing the rundown for our readers. We assume if you clicked, you’re interested!
The final session on Monday featured the newest member of the Big 12 coaching fraternity, Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley. Riley, who found himself with the job when Bob Stoops suddenly retired last month, opened with a very long statement.
Riley acknowledged Bob Stoops and his influence, while noting the transition was made easier by not having to search for a coaching staff to work under him and having a group of players who embraced him immediately. He closed his remarks by expressing his excitement over the returning talent in the defensive back seven before taking questions.
I wasn't the guy that came in and recruited them, and I don't feel like that they should have to accept me just because now I'm the head coach. I feel like that's something that I should have to earn, and I told them that I would give them every ounce I have to get that done.
The first question addressed the play of Baker Mayfield in big games the last two years, and asked if Riley saw a change through those seasons. He agreed with the premise, and said he’s improved even more this off-season. Gulp.
Riley was next asked about the situation at running back with the departures of Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon to the NFL, and rattled off basically the entire depth chart at running back in discussing the candidates to get the bulk of the carries. Needless to say, this is going to be an area of concern for the Sooners.
The conversation then turned to Stoops in a few different ways. He was first asked what lessons he learned from Stoops, but his answer was a bit metaphysical as he pointed out that he’d observed the sixth sense Stoops seemed to have about the team’s vibe at any given time. That’s not something one can really learn, so it will be interesting to see whether it’s a trait Riley has himself.
The next questioner asked if Riley felt a need to replace Stoops in terms of his larger role within the Big 12. Riley demurred, noting that if Oklahoma has a winning program it’s good for the conference, and that’s all he’s focused on. Asked why he thought recruiting picked up after he was named head coach as opposed to the change putting a damper on things as it usually does in this sort of situation, Riley allowed that Oklahoma is a program which sells itself. He only lightly touched on the obvious: players who committed to Oklahoma in the last six weeks can be reasonably sure Riley will still be there when they’re seniors.
Asked about whether he thought the rebuild of the Sooner program under Stoops would necessarily make his job easier, Riley had an interesting response:
Coaches have always had differing thoughts on that, right? Would you rather take over the one that's struggling so maybe the standards are a little bit lower or the one that's better?
One imagines him having a chat with Bill Snyder about that topic.
The next question was about his younger brother Garrett, who is about the same age as Collin Klein and is now the quarterbacks coach at Kansas (which is a thing we’ll probably see stories about in November). That spurred Riley to talk about his family, a legacy of quarterbacks but without a coaching background until he moved into the profession.
Ruffin McNeil was the next topic, Riley agreeing that being able to add him to the staff probably makes his transition to being a head coach as comfortable as it could possibly be given their relationship.
Getting back to on-field personnel, Riley was asked what the Sooners will do at wide receiver after losing Sterling Shepard and Dede Westbrook in back-to-back seasons. Riley pointed out that they faced the same question last year after Shepard left and everything worked out fine, then mentioned some guys he thinks have a shot to be the next great Sooner wideout. All of them will come out of nowhere to do so if they manage the task.
The next questioner said it was scary how much like Stoops Riley sounds, and asked how Riley was going to combine what he learned from Stoops with being himself. Riley said Stoops stressed the latter part, and said it was probably the best advice he’s ever been given, but that he’s comfortable with the comparison anyway.
In his final question, Riley faced one of those “guy who’s here to try and ask every coach the same question” situations. Asked how he felt about the growth of non-coaching staffs (just as Bill Snyder would be on Tuesday), Riley actually said a lot of the same things Snyder did — that every school has its own balance, and that the head coach has to be careful to make sure there’s enough work to go around yet have enough people to do it all.