It didn’t take long for Lincoln Riley to establish himself as one of the premier coaches in all of college football.
After unexpectedly taking the reins from future Hall of Fame coach Bob Stoops last summer, Riley immediately led the Oklahoma Sooners to a 12-2 record, a Big 12 Championship and a College Football Playoff appearance in his debut season.
Factor in the fact that Riley previously thrived as Stoops’ offensive coordinator and that he’s now the head man at a college football blue-blood and Riley finds himself ranked in what CBS Sports dubbed as ‘The Steve Spurrier Tier’ of blue-blood champions, per Ben Kercheval.
In what’s essentially Tier 2 of CBS Sports college football coaching tiers rankings, Riley is joined by some notable company:
- Jimbo Fisher — Texas A&M
- James Franklin — Penn State
- Chip Kelly — UCLA
- Kirby Smart — Georgia
The only tier above the one Riley was ranked in is ‘The Bear Bryant Tier’ of first-ballot Hall of Famers, which included Alabama’s Nick Saban, Ohio State’s Urban Meyer and Clemson’s Dabo Swinney.
More notably, of the various tiers including numerous coaches, no Big 12 coach was placed in a more prestigious tier than Riley, despite the tiers being independent of each other, so although he’s still fairly fresh in the head coaching industry, he’s already proven his worth in just one season. The question going forward, however, is can Riley keep the Sooners churning on all cylinders after losing an abundance of talent to the NFL, including reigning Heisman winner and No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield.
The early returns suggest Oklahoma should be just fine.
Virtually every early top 25 has the Sooners firmly within the top 10, and the work behind put forth on the recruiting trail — Oklahoma currently owns the No. 1-ranked recruiting class — assures that there’s still a rich talent pipeline headed for Norman, Okla.
That’s ideal news for a program that already boasts one of the top coaches in college football.