In a very shocking development, Lincoln Riley has told his staff that he will be leaving the head coaching position at Oklahoma to fill the head coaching vacancy at USC. Details will be made public within the next 24 hours. It appeared as though Riley was a prime candidate to fill the same position at LSU. Riley indicated after last night’s loss to Oklahoma State that he would not be the next head coach to LSU. Little did we know, he would be headed west. Now, we examine the news with Lincoln Riley headed to USC.
Riley’s Time in Norman
Taking over for Bob Stoops in 2017, Riley completed a 55-10 record in five years at Oklahoma. He led the Sooners to four Big 12 championships in his five seasons in Norman with this year being the only exception. A big point of contention in Norman has been Oklahoma’s playoff record. The Sooners made the playoffs in each of his first three seasons. However, those three appearances resulted in losses to Georgia, Alabama, and LSU. Each of those losses increased in point differential. Additionally, naysayers would point out the Sooners regressed each season with this season being the worst of the lot.
It’s hard to know the impact immediately felt at Oklahoma with this move. Above all, Riley has been a dynamic recruiter since his arrival in Norman. Oklahoma appears to have a top 10 class at worst for the 2022 cycle. Also, Oklahoma currently has the top-rated recruiting class for the 2023 cycle with several five-star recruits.
Part of recruiting and everyday life as a college football coach is the navigation of the transfer portal. Conceivably, Riley could entice many verbal commitments as well as current players on the Oklahoma roster to either switch their commitment or possibly enter the transfer portal in hopes of a transfer to USC from Oklahoma. Of particular concern could be the Sooner quarterback room. It’s been a foregone conclusion that Spencer Rattler would be either a transfer or early entry into the NFL draft. Additionally, Caleb Williams who is the quarterback of the future could choose to follow Riley to USC.
There are a few immediate thoughts that could bridge the gap with Lincoln Riley headed to USC. Below are a few folks on the shortlist for Oklahoma moving forward.
Aranda is one of the biggest names in this offseason coaching carousel. He has moved Baylor from a two-win team to 10-2 and is challenging for a Big 12 championship. He has produced great defenses everywhere he’s been and could instill some much-needed discipline and toughness.
Ironically, Campbell had previously been linked to his job. But, his success at Iowa State has been incredible. Ames is one of the toughest places to win and recruit to in the country and he has built a consistent winner there while instilling a winning culture.
The Stoops name is certainly big at the University of Oklahoma. Maybe an endorsement from Bob Stoops would make this a reality. Stoops has been incredibly consistent at Kentucky which has been centered around defense and has experience navigating the SEC.
There could still be some hard feelings between Venables and Oklahoma. However, he’s passed on many head coaching jobs but I don’t think this would be one that he would pass on. The only concern would be lack of head coaching experience, but remember Riley and Stoops were first-time head coaches at Oklahoma.
Fickel, like Aranda, will be a hot commodity this offseason. His success at Cincinnati has been very impressive. The one challenge with Fickel may be getting him in the program as soon as Oklahoma would need him. With Fickel poised to take Cincinnati into the playoffs for the first time, he might not be willing to leave.
This is a bit of a long shot, but don’t dismiss it so quickly. Stoops handed the keys to the castle to Riley and could feel a sense of obligation due to his affinity with Oklahoma. Bill Snyder came back to Kansas State after retiring once. He could feel like he could be a temporary fix to keep the wheels on the bus.