There is some fresh energy at Oklahoma right now. Nobody can deny what Bob Stoops was able to do for 18 seasons and the incredible legacy he has left at OU.
But don’t be upset if those same people are a little giddy about someone like Lincoln Riley taking over the football program.
With every change, there’s good and there’s bad. For the Sooners, you have to feel like the good overwhelmingly trumps the bad, but it’s not all rosy.
One of Riley’s biggest challenges will be in recruiting. And that’s what we’re going to examine right now. Even though it started with a bang in OKC Putnam City’s Ron Tatum, Riley’s work has just begun in that department.
No head coaching experience
Start with the obvious one. Everybody has to get their start somewhere, but very few have their first head coaching gig at a place as prestigious as OU.
It simply does not happen. But when you’re looking at recruiting, a proven track record is something prospects and their families consider.
Through two years as offensive coordinator, the results spoke for themselves in terms of what Riley was able to do with quarterback Baker Mayfield and the rest of the Sooners weapons.
But what’s he going to say to a parent, high school coach or recruit that wonder about his ability to be the big dog. Not a cog in the wheel but the main thing that keeps that wheel turning?
Riley has proven to be an effective communicator in his two years in Norman, but it’s something he’ll have to battle. At least initially.
Not a nationally known name
This sounds stupid when you consider his two years as offensive coordinator at OU and winning the Broyles Award as the nation’s top assistant following the 2015 season.
Riley has earned a quality reputation in the region, but there’s no true way of knowing just yet if the name Lincoln Riley equates to national recruiting success.
Stoops did have that. Assistants like Riley could foster a relationship, but Stoops was a solid closer when push came to shove.
Once again, it feels like Riley has the mentality of overcoming that. But again, something we’ll all find out together.
Riley is an offensive genius. No doubt about that. But how he is going to play with top defensive prospects moving forward?
How big of an adjustment will it be? It’s one thing for Riley to be wearing a No. 99 jersey in OU’s pursuit of Marvin Wilson last recruiting cycle and a whole ‘nother thing to try to convince top defensive recruits to be in Norman.
To his credit, Riley never felt like a traditional assistant. He wasn’t just making his sure his quarterback room was loaded and that the offense was on-point.
Several OU defensive players have said how Riley would interact with them and gained their respect. If he can do it in the locker room, he could be able to duplicate that on the trail.
Locking down Texas
The biggest one? Maybe. Riley seems to have already carved out the niche with Oklahoma high school prospects. He gets it. Keep them home.
But as we all know, you’re not going to field a championship-level team with nothing but OKPreps recruits no matter how badly they want to play in the crimson and cream.
Riley has Texas roots, full of them from growing up in Muleshoe, Texas, to being at Texas Tech. He understands the area. Understands the values.
But he’s going to have to deliver. Texas is as wide open as in any time in recent memory. Texas, Texas A&M, Ohio State, LSU, Alabama, Baylor, the list goes on and on. No school dominates the region.
Hard to envision OU doing so, but the Sooners and Riley can make a big statement in the Lone Star State.
Seriously, maybe the most underrated one of them all. Making the transition from offensive coordinator to head coach means investing time.
Media appearances. Helping to sell the program. Things that take you away from coaching the squad and recruiting the targets.
Riley, at 33, is full of youthful enthusiasm and feels like he has an unlimited supply of energy. It won’t stay that way. It can’t stay that way.
Riley understands the impact of social media in recruiting. No doubt about that. He’s as active, as creative as insightful as you can be on Twitter as a head coach.
How long will this infectious spirit last? He wants to do everything. Believes he can. Something will have to give eventually.