Ri­ley’s whirl­wind dies down

Soon­ers coach says he del­e­gates more than he wants to.

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS - By Cliff Brunt

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-yearold 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 last 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 Tex­asEl Paso.

“The first day I had to catch my­self a few times, like, ‘Oh yeah, I’m the guy that’s got to go break them 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 19048 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.”

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 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 three­legged 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.

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.”

SUE OGROCKI / AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Ok­la­homa’s Lin­coln Ri­ley (right, talk­ing with Soon­ers quar­ter­back Baker May­field in prac­tice) has made a smooth tran­si­tion from of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor to head coach since tak­ing over the pro­gram in June.

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