New Oklahoma coach Riley still adjusting to promotion
By CLIFF BRUNT
Aug. 06, 2017
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — Lincoln Riley is still getting used to his new job as Oklahoma's head football coach.
It would be hard to blame him, given how quickly everything changed. The 33-year-old was promoted from offensive coordinator in June after Bob Stoops abruptly stepped down, and it's been a whirlwind ever since.
Saturday was just another of those crazy busy days for Riley. He spent the morning meeting fans, then addressed the media in the afternoon. Riley is learning how to balance running the team, directing the coaching staff and dealing with off-the-field obligations on the fly.
"I love the Xs and the Os and coaching on the field, but I enjoy the other parts of it, too,'" he said. "There's certainly more things to keep track of. There's more things running through your head. I've had to delegate more like we've talked about offensively, but so far, I think everybody has done a great job with it."
Riley joked earlier in the week that he had to remind himself of his new position when fall camp opened. He expects to be more comfortable by the time the Sooners open the season Sept. 2 against Texas-El Paso.
"The first day I had to catch myself a few times, like, 'Oh yeah, I'm the guy that's gotta go break 'em down,'" he said. "You know, you get in your same mode for so long. It feels good. There was a lot of buildup and it was a bit of a mad rush there from early June to now, so just to finally get on the field and get going and do what we all love to do — it was good."
Riley isn't stepping in for just anyone. Stoops went 190-48 in 18 years, with a national title and three other appearances in title games. Stoops still works for the athletic department, and he has helped Riley's transition by attending some practices and offering advice.
"He's not the type of guy who is going to call me every single night," Riley said. "That's just not his personality. He wouldn't do it that way. But he's always available for a call."
Riley appreciates Stoops' input.
"Always good to hear what he sees," Riley said. "A lot of times, it's just confirming what you think you're seeing. He just wants to be there in any way I or this program can use him. And I certainly will."
One of Riley's first moves upon becoming head coach was hiring Ruffin McNeill as an assistant. Riley was an assistant for McNeill at East Carolina. McNeill was assistant head coach at Virginia last season before Riley brought him to Oklahoma.
McNeill said Riley is handling things with calm and poise.
"Still keeping everybody accountable and involving everyone on the staff as well," McNeill said. "He's doing a great job himself of just handling the different situations that come with that job. That head coaching job is a three-legged stool. It's wobbly. But he's doing a great job keeping it balanced."
Quarterback Baker Mayfield said the things that made Riley popular as offensive coordinator make him popular now. He's still brilliant, down to Earth, honest and humble. Mayfield said receiver Jeff Mead razzed Riley for three weeks before he finally upgraded his car.
"He has an ability to adapt to his players and relate to them," Mayfield said. "Coaching-wise, he adapts to our personnel and he calls plays based on that. But he has the ability to relate to them and get the best out of every individual person."
Riley is adjusting to being the final decision-maker when it comes to discipline. He suspended cornerback Will Sunderland indefinitely after Sunderland was arrested for burglary, and he recently dismissed backup quarterback Chris Robison from the team for a rules violation.
"Certainly, being that person that makes the final decision or has that final talk or whatever it is, that is different," he said. "It's not part of the job I shy away from, but it's definitely one of the worst parts of the job, too."
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