Riley comes with a pedigree all his own – for a up-tempo offense and a knack for developing quarterbacks and wide receivers.
After working as a student and graduate assistant, he became the Red Raiders receiving coach in 2007. When Mike Leach was fired in 2010, he left with Ruffin McNeill for East Carolina, where he became the team’s offensive coordinator and play caller.
Riley’s first game calling plays was on an interim basis at Texas Tech when the Red Raiders recorded 579 yards in an Alamo Bowl victory.
From there, he has done nothing but re-write the East Carolina record books.
This season, the Pirates set a school record with 6,929 yards from scrimmage, breaking the record Riley’s offense set the year before. In five seasons, he has coached the top five single-season passing marks in East Carolina history.
His offense isn’t the ‘air raid’ look he learned under Leach.
Last season with a senior, three-year starter at quarterback, Riley’s offense passed just 62.5 percent of the time – with sacks counting as pass plays. The year before, it was just 57.9 percent. In 2012, East Carolina threw the ball just 54.5 percent of the time with sacks included as passing plays.
East Carolina quarterback Shane Carden – 6-foot-2, 221 pounds, also scored 24 rushing touchdowns in three years. In two of the past three years, the Pirates have had a 1,000-yard rusher. Last year, East Carolina averaged more than 160 yards on the ground and might have had a third-straight 1,000-yard rusher had its starting running back not missed the bowl game because of injury.
Only four teams finished 2014 with more yards than East Carolina.
Riley, just 31 years old, isn’t a proven commodity on the recruiting trail, but he has shown he can develop players about as well as anybody.
It starts with Carden: A two-star quarterback with his only other offers from Stephen F. Austin and Central Michigan who re-wrote the record book at East Carolina. Riley also turned JuCo transfer Dominique Davis into an NFL quarterback.
Michael Crabtree, Dwayne Harris and Justin Hardy, who broke Ryan Broyles’ all-time receptions record this season and finished his career with three straight 1,000-yard seasons and more than 4,500 career yards.
Hardy went from preferred walk-on to All-American under Riley.