For the first time in 18 seasons, a new Oklahoma head coach, Lincoln Riley, represented the Sooners at Big 12 Football Media Days.
Riley was one of five Big 12 head coaches who were on the docket on day one of the annual conference media event in Dallas that serves as the unofficial kickoff of the Big 12 football season.
This year’s event is being held for the first time at the Dallas Cowboys’ new headquarters in Frisco, Texas, a northern suburb of Dallas.
Riley was asked, first and foremost, about the coaching transition after taking over the Sooner program a little over a month ago from Bob Stoops, who announced his retirement in early June after 18 seasons and 190 wins as head coach of the Sooners.
The new Sooner head coach called his situation unique in the sense that what often happens when there is a change at the top of a college football program is a series of changes that naturally follow, like new staff hires, getting to know the players and where they are in their development, installation of a new philosophy and offensive and defensive schemes, just to name a few.
All of that is water under the bridge as far as Oklahoma’s situation is concerned. The continuity that was retained with this coaching change is what separates it from most coaching changes, Riley said, and makes the situation much more seamless and easier.
With all he has been going through the past six weeks,”not having to hire 10 new coaches, not having to get to know new players and develop those relationships” has certainly made the adjustment much easier for everybody in the Sooner organization, Riley said in his opening statement to lead off the Oklahoma portion of the press briefing.
We felt there was so much good going on with Oklahoma football that we didn’t want to do anything to derail the progress and continuity that was in place, Riley said.
Riley reiterated several times that he has learned a great deal from Stoops that has prepared him to become a head coach. If I had taken a head-coaching job somewhere else, he said, I would have taken the things I learned from Coach Stoops with me.
Riley was asked by one reporter if he felt there was a lot of pressure because of the high expectations for Oklahoma football and because of the high bar that had been set by the success achieved under Stoops. The new OU head coach said there is pressure associated with taking over any successful program, but he also sees the opportunity that comes with it to continue the success and the winning tradition that has been very much a part of the Sooners’ football history.
“Probably the thing I’m most excited about our team is the overall team leadership,” Riley said. “It’s interesting because the leaders are really spread throughout the team.
We’ve got a lot of guys who have played a lot of ball and played very quality ball. We’ve got a lot of experienced guys back at key positions, (starting) with Baker Mayfield at quarterback,” he continued.
“With all of our offensive line returning — in fact, all of our top eight offensive linemen returning. We’re going to be very experienced in the secondary with Steven Parker and Jordan Thomas, and we think we have one of the deepest linebacking corps in the country, headed up by ‘Obo’ (Ogbonnia Okoronkwo), Caleb Kelly and Emmanuel Beal.
“Again, really, really excited about this team” and the prospects for the coming season.
A writer for the Austin American-Statesman drew a big smile out of Riley and chuckles from the media gathering when he began a question by stating: “Based on some of the things you’re saying, you sound like Stoops, and that freaks me out.”