BY JOHN ROHDE
Aug. 7, 2017
It's hard to fathom how a 33-year-old could remain unchanged after being handed the reins to one of the nation's premier college football programs, but such appears to be the case with new Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley.
"He hasn't changed at all," said senior quarterback and two-time top-four Heisman Trophy vote-getter Baker Mayfield, who has spent more time with Riley than any OU player since Riley arrived in January 2015 as the Sooners' new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. "He's the same guy. He's a humble guy. He's knows exactly why he's here and how he got here. He's worked very, very hard. He's paid attention to people around him."
Mayfield smiled and shared the following example of how Riley has remained unchanged: "I think it took (senior wide receiver) Jeffery Mead razzing him for three weeks for him (Riley) to finally get a new car," Mayfield said.
Mead confirmed the story, saying he prodded Riley every three or four days about getting a new set of wheels. Mead said he didn't specify which car Riley should get, but did tell his new head coach, "'You're our boss, so I want you to drive something nice.' Coach Riley does not care (about material things)."
Riley finally caved and swapped his Toyota 4Runner for a new Cadillac Escalade. "That's nice," Mead said approvingly.
Senior linebacker Emmanuel Beal nodded his approval and said, "Oh, yeah. That's a big-boy truck."
Affable senior fullback Dimitri Flowers is on a first-name basis with his new head coach. Actually, he's on a half-first-name basis, playfully referring to Riley as "Linc" while simultaneously propping himself up as "probably the second-best quarterback on the team." Riley's reaction to Flowers' quarterback proclamation? "He really didn't acknowledge it," Flowers admitted quietly.
Though there is an undeniable comfort zone that surrounds Riley, other players aren't quite as bold as Flowers — no matter how physically intimidating they are. "I call him 'Coach Riley,'" 6-foot-8, 345-pound junior offensive tackle Orlando Brown said. "I am not going to call him 'Linc.'"
Senior defensive end D.J. Ward said, "Maybe down the line I'll call him 'Linc,' or come up with another nickname. But for now, I'm sticking with 'Coach Riley.'"
Riley became the nation's youngest FBS head coach on June 7 and the 22nd head coach in OU history following the sudden retirement of 18-year coach Bob Stoops. Riley will follow in the massive footsteps of Stoops (190-48 overall record; .798 winning percentage), who captured a national championship in just his second season with the Sooners (2000). The Stoops era also produced 10 Big 12 Conference crowns, 14 seasons of 10-plus victories and a bowl appearance every year.
The Riley regime is fresh off its first week of practice, which consisted of six sessions from Monday through Saturday. Though it's a small sample size, players said Riley already has set an overriding tone of physicality and intensity.
"He's a fiery guy and he's always been a fiery guy," junior tight end Mark Andrews said, "but now we're seeing him instill that into everybody. He's a competitor and he wants us to be competitors and he doesn't expect anything less than that. Every day, we have to come out and compete. And if we don't, we know we're not going to play. That's just how it is now."
Riley was weaned on the opposite side of the ball as Stoops. Since his days as Texas Tech student assistant in 2003, Riley has served as an offensive assistant while Stoops remained on the defensive side from 1983-1998 at Iowa, Kent State, Kansas State and Florida before taking over at OU in December 1998.
"That's the thing," senior defensive back Steven Parker said of the seemingly unflappable Riley. "He's so cool, he's getting along with both sides of the ball. Everyone respects him as a coach and as a person. Coach Riley, he brings that intensity that we need to get off to a fast start. Just throughout camp, we've had so much competition. I can definitely say this is one of the most intense and most fun fall camps I've been a part of."
Flowers joked offensive players are somewhat jealous they now must share Riley with the rest of the team. "It's actually kind of cool (to see him yelling at other people), but at the same time, he's cheering on the defense when they make a good play," Flowers said. "We're like, 'No, you can't do that. You were here (with the offense) first. Remember that.' It's great to see him do all those things and it's really cool to see him taking on that different role."
Junior offensive lineman Dru Samia: "It kind of feels weird when Coach Riley tells the defense, 'Good job getting a pick or getting a fumble.' But it's cool. I'm glad that he's in the position that he's in. I think he's handled it super well."
Senior offensive lineman Erick Wren: "Yeah, we are jealous. He's our coach, but that just lets you know what type of guy he is. He's a stand-up guy. In my eyes, this is one of the best head coaches I've ever played for."
Mayfield joked of Riley, "He forgets about us (offensive players). We're the little people now." Mayfield immediately pleaded for reporters not to mention what he had just said. "Nah, just kidding," he said. "Don't actually put that in there."
Mayfield admitted sharing Riley with the entire team is a bit of an adjustment for offensive players. "It's a little different," Mayfield said. "We just have to be a little more responsible."
The Sooners' current level of talent, experience and leadership are among the many reasons Stoops felt this was an opportune time for Riley to drive an Escalade.
Riley said he now works "all three sides of the ball. If there's a special-teams period, I'm going to be there. Defensively, I'll pick my spots. It varies each day."
"He kind of stays in his lane when it comes to the defense," Parker said of Riley. "He checks in that we're doing our job."
Riley has retained his role as quarterbacks coach while adding his new responsibilities of overseeing the defense, special teams, coaching staff, managers and office personnel. Riley has gone from managing roughly 50 people to approximately three times that many. "There's certainly more to keep track of," Riley admitted. "There's more things running through your head."
Has Riley been overwhelmed by it all? Certainly doesn't seem like it.
"Same guy. Same guy, for sure," senior linebacker/defensive end Ogbonnia Okoronkwo said. "We know everything he says is for a reason."
Riley passes credit unto others while explaining his velvet transition to head coach. "The people around me in the program have handled it so well," Riley said. "That's made it smooth on me. I've enjoyed kind of diving into the different parts of it. I love the Xs and Os and coaching in the field, but I enjoy all the other parts of it, too."
Riley assumed control of a national powerhouse without the benefit of running his own spring practice.
He has been submerged in work since replacing Stoops. In addition to acquainting himself with an entire roster rather than just leading offensive players, Riley also dove head-first into recruiting, hired new assistant head coach/defensive tackles coach Ruffin McNeill (his former boss at Texas Tech and East Carolina), granted a slew of media requests (which included Big 12 Media Days last month in Frisco, Texas), partook in Meet the Sooners Day with fans on Saturday at Gaylord Family - Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, which was followed by the team's annual media day in the stadium.
Riley said his winning expectations remain unchanged as head coach. "I feel the same amount that I did as the OC," Riley said. "You feel that at this place. It's not really anything that needs to be said. As a coach, I felt it the first time I walked in the door. I felt it when I came to interview here."
Perhaps most impressive, players agree the attributes they appreciated about Riley as an assistant have remained unchanged as head coach.
Mayfield said he has kept the same sales pitch whenever discussing Riley. "That's the thing I've always said to recruits and to anybody else. 'The person you meet is the person you're going to get as a coach,'" Mayfield said. "That's the most special thing you can get because you can build a relationship with him and it will be there throughout all phases of life."
Flowers said, "He's absolutely the same (person), and that's one of the things that I appreciate about him. He's stayed true. Whether we've had success after the game, whether we lost the game, he's been the same person."
"I don't think anything's changed about him, but I think his greatest attribute is relating to the players," Samia said. "He's a young guy, but he's also one of the smartest people I've been around. He's able to relate to the players and still get the job done."
Ward describes Riley as "a great listener. Most people think you probably can't talk to your head coach, but you can say anything to Coach Riley. He'll hear you out."
Okoronkwo echoed Ward and particularly appreciates Riley's open-door policy. "He's ready to listen to you anytime, any problem you have," Okoronkwo said. "Even if there's not a problem, he's ready just to talk. His door is open."
"I like his swagger," Beal said. "That's his swag and no one's going to change it for him. He can take this step on his own. In the back of my mind, I always thought he would make a good head coach."
Parker said of Riley, "What I appreciate most is just the way he handles things. Basically, it's the same as Coach Stoops, but it's a little bit more hands-on."
Meanwhile, Wren's admiration for his new head coach is multi-faceted. "The way he goes about things is a great example of how to be a man in life," Wren said.Continue reading...
BY JOHN ROHDE
June 12, 2017
Five days have passed since Oklahoma football coach Bob Stoops announced his sudden retirement at age 56. Even those closest to him were stunned when Stoops shared the news last Wednesday.
Sooners associate head coach/defensive coordinator Mike Stoops is 15 months younger than his older brother. They grew up in a close-knit family in Youngstown, Ohio, were teammates throughout their playing days in school, coached alongside each other as assistants at Kansas State and Mike spent 10 seasons at OU as an assistant under big brother.
A bit of shock lingers even for Mike.
"It still feels a little strange, but it's all good and time for a new beginning," Mike said Sunday evening. "When you really think about it, why not (retire)? Bob's not about money. He's not about records or anything like that. He's just about doing his job and being happy."
The day after his announcement, Bob Stoops and longtime friend Matt McMillen headed to a Florida beach. McMillen is OU's assistant athletics director for football operations and arrived alongside Stoops in 1999. They've been friends since 1989 working at K-State. McMillen was having dinner at Stoops' home last Tuesday night when he got blindsided.
"We were outside and Bob says, 'Matty, I'm not going to coach anymore,'" McMillen explained. "I don't think I said a word for 20-25 minutes. He started laughing at me. It was like somebody hit me on the head with a sledgehammer, or an anvil fell on my head, or something. I didn't know what to say. It was crazy."
Early in the morning on the day of the announcement, Stoops called assistant head coach Cale Gundy into his office. Gundy, who serves as director of recruiting and coaches inside receivers, has been with the OU football program for 23-plus seasons. He played quarterback for the Sooners (1990-93), served one year as a student assistant and returned to OU when Stoops became head coach 18 years ago.
"Bob told me what was going on," Gundy said. "It was kind of tough for him to tell me and it was tough for me to hear it. We have been around each other for so long and it's something I'll remember forever."
A mid-afternoon meeting was scheduled last Wednesday to inform OU players of Stoops' retirement. When word leaked, the meeting was bumped up to early afternoon. Before meeting alongside his teammates, however, senior quarterback and Heisman Trophy finalist Baker Mayfield was summoned into a meeting with Stoops and new head coach Lincoln Riley.
“By then, everybody kind of knew what was happening,” Mayfield said. “I was shocked at first, just hearing it come out of Coach Stoops' mouth. I also was taken aback that he respected me enough to call me in there and tell me in person before meeting with the team.”
Former Sooners coach Barry Switzer said Stoops gave him a tour of the new facilities three days before the announcement and Stoops never hinted of his pending retirement. The day after the announcement, Stoops telephoned Switzer.
"Bob said, 'The timing was right,'" Switzer said. "And I said, 'Well, you're the only one who keeps that watch. No one else keeps that watch except you. It's your clock and you set the time. I'm all for it. I can understand.'"
Defensive tackle Tommie Harris was a two-time, first-team All-American with the Sooners in 2002-03, won the 2003 Vince Lombardi Award, declared for the 2004 NFL Draft after his junior season and was selected 14th overall in the first round by the Chicago Bears.
"I was shocked," Harris said of Stoops retiring, "but then at the same time, I was more excited for him. It showed his courage to leave at the top of your game. He can do whatever he wants with his time now."Continue reading...
BY JOHN ROHDE
May 16, 2017
When diminutive Oklahoma running back Quentin Griffin was selected in the fourth round of the 2003 NFL Draft, he left as the school's fourth-leading rusher with 3,938 career yards. Griffin only trailed two Heisman Trophy winners in Billy Sims (4,118) at No. 1 and Steve Owens (4,041) at No. 3, plus silver-shoed great Joe Washington (4,071) at No. 2.
A chance to play in the NFL put Griffin's academic progress on hold. In his second season with the Denver Broncos, the 5-foot-7, 190-pound Griffin set a franchise record for most rushing yards in a season opener with a career-high 156 on 23 carries against the Kansas City Chiefs. A budding NFL career abruptly was cut short when Griffin tore the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his right knee in Week 7. He would never play another regular-season game again for the Broncos.
In 2005, Griffin had dropped to No. 4 on Denver's depth chart and was released. He was brought back a few weeks later, then released again. In 2006, Griffin was signed by the Chiefs and later cut. In 2007, the Hamburg Sea Devils made Griffin the second overall pick in the NFL Europa Free Agent Draft. In 2008, he signed the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the CFL and was cut after the team's final preseason game. In July 2013, Griffin signed with the Kiel Baltic Hurricanes in Germany (GFL1).
When Griffin's football odyssey finally came to an end, a daunting task awaited if he was going to finish what he started academically at OU.
When he left the Sooners, Griffin was 33 credit hours short of earning his undergraduate degree. "My mother, she planted the seed (to graduate) and kept watering it," Griffin said with a smile. "It was in the back of my mind, but once I got it to the front of my mind, that's the push I needed."Continue reading...
BY CHRIS HUMMER
May 9, 2017
College football's early signing period, which was officially approved Monday, is expected to occur on the third Wednesday of each December to align with the mid-year junior college transfer window, according to Susan Peal, Director of Governance for the National Letter of Intent program.
"It is anticipated that the football early signing period will align with the football mid-year (junior college) transfer signing period each year," Peal wrote 247Sports in an email. "So that would start the third Wednesday of December."
The 72-hour early signing period for high school seniors will start Dec. 20, 2017.
This early signing period is in addition to college football's standard National Signing Day, which occurs the first Wednesday of February each year. In essence, college football now has two National Signing Days with recruits having the option to sign in December or February.
The early signing period is one of a number of prominent pieces of legislation the Division I Council approved earlier this year. Others included a 10th full-time assistant, a change in the official visit schedule with an additional window from April to June, which goes into effect April 1, 2018, and changes to the way off-season recruiting-related camps are conducted.Continue reading...
BY TOMMIE HARRIS
Feb. 16, 2017
We had just stepped off the plane in Austin when the guy slipped me his card.
“If you ever need anything,” he said, “don’t hesitate to call.”
I didn’t really think anything of it. I got a lot of cards passed my way during my career. It’s part of being an NFL player. Financial advisors, entrepreneurs, salesmen of all kinds — it didn’t matter what they were selling or what kind of business they were in, they’d drop me a card. When you have money, everybody wants a piece.
This card came from a guy who owned a private jet company. We had happened to sit next to each other on a flight from Chicago and we started talking.
It was February 10, 2012, four days before Valentine’s Day. The jet guy had told me about his business, and I had told him about my NFL career and how the last year had been tough. After three Pro Bowls and a trip to the Super Bowl with the Bears, they released me. I caught on with the Colts, but was cut just a month later. Then I signed with the Chargers, where I spent the 2011 season as a fill-in guy — not the kind of role I had played in Chicago. Now, I was a free agent, looking to extend my NFL career.
I also told him about my family. About my three-year-old son, Tyson, and my four-month-old daughter, Tinsley. About my wife, Ashley, who had gone back home to Oklahoma to finally have a routine medical procedure that she had been putting off. I was on my way to my hometown of Killeen, Texas, to visit my sister before flying to Oklahoma to meet Ashley for Valentine’s Day, our first as a married couple. We had been married 40 days earlier, on New Year’s Day.
Despite being uncertain about my future in the NFL, I was the happiest I had ever been.
When we got off the plane, the jet guy and I shook hands and went our separate ways. As I made my way to baggage claim, I got a phone call from an Oklahoma area code.
“Tommie,” the voice said, “you need to get to Oklahoma right now.”
“Your wife has stopped breathing.”Continue reading...
BY JOHN ROHDE
April 28, 2017
The first college football coach Steve Owens ever met was Arkansas assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Jim Mackenzie in the summer of 1964. At the time, Owens was a junior running back/roving linebacker for the Miami (Okla.) High School Wardogs. Mackenzie was friends with Wardogs head coach Bill Watkins, who hoped to implement the same "Monster" defense that had helped the Razorbacks become a national power.
"I'll never forget it," Owens recalled of Mackenzie. "He pulled up in a car and had his suit on. Of course, it was hot. He took his jacket off, took his tie off and walked onto the practice field. He spent two hours with us, going over this new defense, man. He was sweating like you wouldn't believe. And just like a coach, he installed the Monster defense for our team."
That same year, Arkansas finished as the nation's only unbeaten team, defeated Nebraska in the Cotton Bowl and was ranked No. 1 by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA).
Miami's Monster defense made a defensive monster out of Owens, who also happened to be a pretty decent running back, averaging 7.2 yards-per-carry and rushing for more than 4,000 career yards for the Wardogs. Owens also found time to become a high school state champion hurdler, long and high jumper.
The recruiting process began for Owens during his senior year in 1965 and Mackenzie had both eyes riveted on a kid born in Gore, who grew up in awe of his beloved Sooners, particularly during their 47-game winning streak from 1953-57 under coach Bud Wilkinson.
"I kept telling him (Mackenzie), ‘Hey, I'm an Oklahoma kid. My dream is to go to OU,'" Owens recalled. "Trouble was, OU went 3-7 in 1965, the year after Arkansas had won the national championship. Coach Mackenzie told me it was going to take three or four years to build the (OU) program back up. Well, guess what happened."
Sooners' coach Gomer Jones resigned after going 9-11-1 in two seasons and, at the suggestion of legendary head coach Paul "Bear" Bryant, Mackenzie was selected as OU's next head coach after former Sooners standout (1946-49) and Texas coach Darrell Royal turned down an offer to coach his alma mater.
Upon getting the OU job, Mackenzie promptly reversed field on his recruiting approach with Owens.
"He called me and said, 'Forget all that stuff I've been telling you about Arkansas. You need to follow your dreams, son, and come to Oklahoma,'" Owens said, unable to suppress his laughter. "True story."Continue reading...
BY JOHN ROHDE
April 8, 2017
NORMAN — Oklahoma football coach Bob Stoops said he was "really pleased" with the overall play during Saturday's annual Spring Game, but what pleased him most was his team's overall health.
"Nobody's seriously hurt whatsoever," Stoops said afterward. "I thought there was good execution and we met all assignments. Guys played hard, played well. I'm just really pleased. We got (in) right what we'd hoped for ... right around 90 (plays) pretty close, and that's what we were shooting for."
The White team edged the Red team 14-13 on an 80-degree afternoon before an announced crowd of 43,723 at Gaylord Family — Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.
Starting quarterback and Heisman Trophy finalist Baker Mayfield completed 11-of-20 passes for 99 yards, while redshirt sophomore Kyler Murray completed 9-of-13 passes for 144 yards and one touchdown — a 70-yard connection with senior wide receiver Jeffery Mead in the second quarter — and had another potential touchdown pass was dropped.
Freshman quarterback Chris Robison completed 3-of-5 passes for 49 yards while sophomore Austin Kendall completed 2-of-4 passes for 47 yards. Running back Abdul Adams had the catch of the day with a 34-yard reception.
Passing was hampered by steady gusts of 20 mile-per-hour winds throughout the game.
"By position, I liked what the quarterbacks did, overall," Stoops said. "(They) had smart play, took care of the ball, good throws. It was a windy day. It's tough to get the receivers a little bit of a break because the ball's getting blown all over on a few occasions."Continue reading...
BY JOHN ROHDE
April 6, 2017
Merv Johnson's 60 years in college football included some of the sport's most significant moments:
• Born in King City, Mo., Johnson was recruited by and played for one of the sport's greatest innovators in Missouri coach Don Faurot, a member of the College Football Hall of Fame who is credited for inventing the Split-T formation in 1941. "That was pretty special," Johnson said of being recruited by the legendary Faurot.
• As a Missouri senior in 1957, Johnson was selected as an All-Big Seven Conference offensive tackle for the Tigers under first-year coach Frank Broyles, who had replaced Faurot.
• On Nov. 9, 1957, OU beat Missouri 39-14 in Columbia. The following week, the Sooners' streak of 47 straight victories came to an end with a 7-0 loss at home to unranked Notre Dame. Yup, Johnson played for the last team OU defeated in its record-setting run.
• Johnson followed Broyles to Arkansas in 1958 and was an assistant there for two seasons before returning to his alma mater as an assistant under coach Dan Devine, who had replaced Broyles at Missouri. While with the Razorbacks, Johnson served as a "dorm coach" and had to keep an eye on a player named Barry Switzer, who served as team captain his senior year in 1959. Broyles convinced Switzer to put his plans to attend law school on hold and instead go into coaching. After Johnson returned to Missouri, Switzer replaced him as dorm coach.Continue reading...
BY JOHN ROHDE
April 5, 2017
Bennie, Bud, Barry and Bob all made their indelible mark as Oklahoma football head coaches, but historic contributions also have come from a man endearingly referred to as "Coach Merv."
Mervin Lewis Johnson spent more years inside the Sooners' football program than Bennie Owen, Bud Wilkinson, Barry Switzer or Bob Stoops.
After 38 years as an assistant coach (1979-97) and director of football operations (1998-2017), Johnson formally has retired from the university. "At 80 years old, I figured it'd probably be a good time to do that," Johnson said of retirement.
Johnson will continue his role as the team's radio analyst during games, however. "I said, 'Merv, you may be retiring in employment terms, but we're not going to let you get away that easily. We still want you and need you around here,'" OU Athletics Director Joe Castiglione said of Johnson, who will turn 81 on May 16.
From 1958-2016, Johnson was a football staff member for 59 consecutive college seasons and 703 total games. He served under seven head coaches and those teams combined for an all-time record of 516-175-12 (.743).Continue reading...
Feb. 8, 2017
About 247Sports Composite:
The 247Sports Composite is a proprietary algorithm that compiles rankings and ratings listed in the public domain by the major media recruiting services, creating the industry's most comprehensive and unbiased prospect and team rankings.
About 247Sports Recruiting:
Powered by innovative technology products, 247Sports employs a staff of more than 50 full time recruiting reporters and evaluators that rank and compile data on the nation's elite high school recruits.Continue reading...
January 27, 2017
The allegations span 2011 to 2014 and include a significant number of incidents
A new lawsuit against Baylor over Title IX violations and negligence was filed by a former student Friday. The lawsuit, as first reported by the Dallas Morning News but since obtained by CBS Sports, makes some serious claims against the school, allegations that make the culture at Baylor look even worse than it did before, hard as that might be to believe.
The lawsuit alleges that there were 52 "acts of rape" committed by 31 different Baylor football players from 2011-14. The woman who filed the lawsuit, identified as Elizabeth Doe, says she was raped by two Baylor football players in 2013, who were both named suspects in the incident but never charged by police.
Doe accuses former Baylor players Tre'Von Armstead and Shamycheal Chatman of gang-raping her following a party on April 18, 2013.Continue reading...
January 12, 2017
Too many bowl games? That's just dumb.
While not every postseason game scintillated with derring-do and thrilling finishes, more than half of the 42 games were decided by eight or fewer points.
Here's a ranking of all the postseason games from worst to best. And here's a guess you already know the top three.Continue reading...
By Tim Daniels,
The Pacific Pro Football League announced Wednesday its intention to begin play next winter. The development program for players who graduated high school but aren't currently playing in college is expected to feature four teams playing under professional rules.
ESPN.com reported information provided by the league, which includes former NFL wide receiver Ed McCaffrey as well as Tom Brady's agent, Don Yee, among the founders, stated the average salary will be around $50,000, with 50 players on each roster.Continue reading...