Lincoln Riley: ‘Past successes don’t make a difference this year’

When Oklahoma football coach Lincoln Riley met with reporters at Big 12 Media Days in mid-July, it was a week before the story broke about OU and Texas in talks with the SEC.

As a result, the focus of the media was on Oklahoma’s favorite status to win yet another Big 12 championship, what will be different about the defense and, beyond that, if this is the year that the Sooners not only get to but advance beyond the semifinal round of the College Football Playoff

The Sooner head coach prefaced his opening comments, saying, “(It’s) great to be back in our second home.” That, of course, was in reference to Oklahoma winning its last four Big 12 championship games played at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, the site of Big 12 Media Days this year.

Riley was quick to acknowledge Oklahoma’s recent string of Big 12 titles, but he also let everyone know that the Sooners don’t take any of that for granted.

Every season and every game is different

“We have a lot of respect for this league,” he said. “We have a lot of respect for what it takes to win this league. Everybody’s a good coach, and everybody has good players. Each year is also different and each game is different.

“We’re excited about the success we’ve had, but we know that’s not going to make a difference this year. We have to go do it again.”

The Sooner coach was asked about OU’s defensive expectations and about the growth he is looking for from second-year starting quarterback Spencer Rattler.

Riley said he was excited about what the defense can be this coming season. “I think there’s some genuine excitement around how we’ve played there the past few years. And I think we can (and will) play a lot better defensively.”

Preseason All-Big 12 First-Team linebacker Nik Bonitto talked about taking the next step as a defense:

“It’s mostly just playing with confidence, playing hard and doing all the things Coach Grinch asks us to do for 60 minutes — playing hard, running to the ball and creating turnovers. When we’ve done those things, we’ve seen success in this defense. When we haven’t done those things, we haven’t had success.”

Riley looking for greater consistency from QB Rattler

Regarding Rattler’s growth and improvement in year number two as a starter, Riley said, number one, he is looking for consistency. “He got stronger as the year went on last season, but I think any time for a young quarterback you’re looking for guys that can do it day-in and day-out, game-in and game-out.”

His mastery of our offense and the way we want to attack people is another area where we expect to see improvement from Rattler in 2021, Riley said.

Asked about OU’s chances of advancing in the College Football Playoff, something the Sooners have not been able to do in four previous appearances, the Oklahoma head coach had this to say:

“This is Oklahoma. Every year is the year to do that,” he said, “but it takes a lot to get it done.”

The good thing, Riley said, is we have the guys that know what all it takes to get the job done and be a factor at the end of the season. “We have a team that believes in itself, but also knows the long and tough road ahead.”