For Oklahoma to get back on track on the recruiting trail, it had to start to get creative. It had to start to become relatable to today’s kids.
But it didn’t have to look too far to do so. He could be the most important cog in the OU recruiting machine, but he’ll never say that.
Instead, graduate assistant coach Chip Viney will remain as the man behind the scenes, at least for a little bit longer. Viney, who specializes in the secondary and especially with cornerbacks, is entering his last semester as a graduate assistant.
Where he goes after this season nobody knows. A full-time spot at OU? Possibly. A chance for a fresh start somewhere else? Not out of the question. What is known is he’s bound to bust through eventually and become a hot commodity in the coaching profession.
“Chip is awesome,” first-year defensive backs coach Kerry Cooks said. “From a personality standpoint, he’s as good a recruiter from the G.A. spot I’ve ever been around. It’s easy for him to be relatable to these players. He’s phenomenal with that.
“He’s played the position and played it at a high level. He knows the details. I have complete confidence with Chip. It has been a blessing to have him.”
Viney, who played at UCLA, has become the name synonymous with OU’s recruiting success in the state of California. Viney said he appreciates people saying that, but there is a lot more to it than just his presence.
In the last year, though, you would be hard-pressed to find a more influential member of OU’s staff on the trail than Viney.
Going through a disappointing 2014 season, committed recruits certainly had the option of looking elsewhere. P.J. Mbanasor, ranked No. 103 in the Scout 300, was one of those guys.
He might have thought about it, but in the end, he never acted on it. He never took a visit to another school. Mbanasor said this summer it was Viney who made the most impact for him among the coaches.
“My whole thing with Viney is, not sure if it’s his age or what, but it’s his ability to connect with me on the level of competition and production and work ethic and the mindset,” Mbanasor said. “I was sold on our conversations. He’s legit. He’s straight up with his words.”
Most believe Viney is the key to the Sooners landing Fresno (Calif.) Clovis West five-star linebacker Caleb Kelly for the 2016 class. Again, Viney understands that mentality, but he knows it’s a team effort as well.
“The part people miss is Coach Mike Stoops has been big in Cali since I was growing up,” Viney said. “He was actually recruiting me. OU has had a strong presence in California. No matter what happens, OU is still going to have that presence.”
Viney’s role as the man behind the scenes underwent a major change in January. As a graduate assistant, Viney is not allowed to recruit off campus. But when cornerbacks coach Bobby Jack Wright retired in January, it opened the door for Viney to get his feet wet.
Viney spent the entire month, the final month before signing day, soaking it all in, absorbing all the information he could. It was essentially on-the-job training.
“I’ve learned a lot from the Stoops brothers,” Viney said. “They’ve taken care of me, pointed me in the right direction. The biggest thing I’ve gotten from these guys is how to do business – not just the coaching side of things.
“It was great to see what happens on the other side of it (in-home visit). There was a lot of learning involved, and it was just preparing me. When you’re rolling with Bob Stoops, he’s a vet. He knows what he’s doing. I just filled in where needed.”
There were a lot of people wondering if Viney was going to become OU’s new secondary coach. The spot was eventually filled by former Notre Dame defensive backs coach Kerry Cooks, who accepted after signing day.
“I didn’t know what he was all about and his character,” Cooks said. “Now that I’ve spent more time around him, I’m very glad to have him.”
Glad to have him assist at OU and glad to help start getting Viney prepared for his next step. Viney’s goal is to be a defensive backs coach at a Division I school. There’s little doubt he’ll be able to achieve that down the road.
What he needed, though, was some seasoning. Cooks said anybody could say Viney is an expert when it comes to cornerbacks, that much is obvious. But if Viney is going to run a full room, he needed more time with the safeties.
Cooks gave Viney that opportunity during the spring. Cooks said because the techniques are so different at cornerback and safety, he wanted to give Viney that opportunity to broaden his horizon.
“We know he knows cornerback like the back of his hand,” Cooks said. “But he wants to be a secondary coach, and there’s no guarantee it would be a split room. He did a great job.”
It’s debatable whether or not Viney was ready for the full-time gig after Wright retired, but Viney isn’t lamenting about that nor does he have any sense of bitterness.
It’s about moving forward and looking forward to the 2015 season for the Sooners. As much Viney connects with recruits on the trail, you could make a strong case that he does an even better job with the players on campus.
“To be honest I wouldn’t be the player I am right now without Chip,” cornerback Zack Sanchez said. “He has helped me tremendously on and off the field. He has helped me mature as a man and get me through tough situations.
“I never had a mentor besides my pops. It was a blessing he got here my second year. Who knows where I would be right now? He took me under his wing. He made me a better player and better young man. He has been the biggest part of my improvement than anybody else.
“I wish I could be 17 years old and be recruited by him. He’s going to bring so much energy. He just brings a different feeling to playing defensive back.”
Viney is not sure where he’s going to end up after this semester. He said he’d love to stay in Norman, but there’s no way of knowing that will happen. He’s not worried because he knows Bob and Mike Stoops will point him in the right direction.
And no matter what happens, Viney’s impact will be felt in Norman for years to come.