For people that have extensively followed college football for years knew about Lincoln Riley and what he could become. But for many, Riley was the coach in waiting as Bob Stoops neared retirement. Now Riley has not only carried the torch, but is surpassing the guy that helped start it all.
Going Back to the Beginning
Riley started his playing career in 2002 at Texas Tech University when he joined the team as a walk-on quarterback. Riley would spend that season backing up the current head coach of the Arizona Cardinals, Kliff Kingsbury. After a year on the roster, Riley moved into a student assistant and eventually into a grad assistant role. That role was carried out under the previously mentioned godfather of the modern offense, Mike Leach.
Mike Leach was hired on at Texas Tech in the year 2000 and had notable success at the small school in Lubbock. Leach ran the air raid offense and has an impressive coaching tree to say the least. With names like Dana Holgorsen, Art Briles, Lincoln Riley, Kliff Kingsbury and Neal Brown, it shows the impact he had. With Leach now at Washington State and doing his thing, his assistants have shaped the college football landscape off his blueprint.
Art Briles turned Baylor into a power house for a short while and Dana Holgorsen turned out multiple 10 win seasons at West Virginia. Neal Brown and Kliff Kingsbury are enjoying new venues as they get an upgrade, than there is the best of them all, Lincoln Riley.
Taking College Football by Storm
Once Riley took over for Bob Stoops, there was no looking back. Since 2017, Riley has a record of 24-4, two playoff berths and two Heisman winners. Not bad for the first two years on the job as a first time head coach.
All of these accomplishments come in part due to a high powered offense fueled by Riley and company. Riley has a proven system and it goes back to the days of Texas Tech as a young quarterback learning under Mike Leach. But now Lincoln Riley has come into his own and has stepped out from the shadows of Bob Stoops and Mike Leach.
Passing a Legend
The most impressive thing about Mike Leach is his success at small schools. Both Texas Tech and Washington State are not known as football power houses but he is able to buck the narrative. With multiple Heisman finalists and 10 win seasons all behind a strong offense, Leach is a proven commodity. The problem is Leach has never gotten to the mountain top and is still trying to find that National Championship berth.
Maybe it is the issue of not adapting or maybe it is just the small schools and less access to top talent. Either way, Riley has capitalized on everything that comes with Oklahoma. The previously mentioned 24-4 record and two playoff berths show how close Riley is.
Riley is on a fast track to be the best coach in college football. With Jalen Hurts transferring in, this will be the third quarterback in three years for Lincoln Riley. Seeing how both Mayfield and Murray were Heisman winners and likely both will be first round picks, I would expect success for Hurts. But the thing most exciting is the prospect of Riley getting to work with a QB over four years.
Eventually Riley will have to stop relying on transfer quarterbacks and develop one of his own. Seeing how Riley has been able to work with multiple quarterbacks and keep pumping out the same success, when he finds his guy, I would expect nothing different.
So Riley is on the right track. He has the players, the Heisman’s, the Coach of the Year awards and the experience. He has the blueprints to one of the greatest offensive minds in football and he is just missing the last piece to passing his mentor and taking the baton as one of the greatest offensive coaches ever:
a National Championship.
Started Saturday Tailgate in 2018. Covering all things college football and talking Notre Dame on Twitter.