NORMAN, Okla. — Lincoln Riley introduced recently hired assistant coach Shane Beamer and strength coach Bennie Wylie on Friday. Riley did it with the intention that he’s done hiring coaches for the 2018 season.
“I think we’re pretty settled,” Riley said.
The answer to whether Oklahoma’s coaching staff is locked in for the 2018 season came as a sigh of relief or the source of outrage when Riley met with reporters Friday afternoon. Many fans still clamor for defensive changes following the 2017 season.
Riley, who is in his first true offense as the Sooners’ head coach, showed no signs they are coming.
“In this business, someone can call in June. Nothing is ever 100 percent. But I feel pretty confident the group that we have will be the same group we have starting the season next year.”
Riley has made three major hires since taking over as head coach last June. He brought in Ruffin McNeill — Riley’s mentor — to coach defensive tackles. That one filled a hole on the defensive staff because the defense was former coach Bob Stoops’ expertise.
Riley decided to go with an offensive coach for the final open spot on his coaching roster, luring former Georgia tight ends coach/special teams coordinator to Norman.
Beamer will coach the Sooners’ tight ends and H-backs as well as serve as the associate head coach for offense. What the last title means is up to Riley. The head coach remains the Sooners’ offensive play-caller and quarterbacks coach.
Hiring Wylie was a no-brainer for Riley as soon as longtime strength coach Jerry Schmidt announced he was going to Texas A&M.
Riley and Wylie were together at Texas Tech more than a decade ago. As Riley started getting interviews for head coaching jobs in 2015, one of his first calls was always to Wylie to make sure he was part of the plan.
“This time I called him and joked that I really had a job to offer this time,” Riley said. “This is for real.”
Shane Beamer wants to learn at Oklahoma
Shane Beamer was in a comfortable position last week. The Bulldogs were a play away from winning a national championship in his second season on Kirby Smart’s staff. He wasn’t itching to leave.
When the call came from Riley, what piqued his interest was what he’d heard from defensive coaches during the past five years. He was Virginia Tech’s running backs coach when East Carolina came to Virginia Tech in 2014. Under Riley’s direction, the Pirates stunned the Hokies, 28-21.
Beamer also listened as Georgia defensive coordinator Mel Tucker described what the Bulldogs would face in the Rose Bowl.
“The word our defensive coordinator kept using was ‘cutting edge’,” Beamer said. “They’re on the cutting edge of what they’re doing offensively. As a coach, that’s exciting to have to be part of that.”
Beamer, the son of legendary former Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer, doesn’t camouflage is head coaching aspirations. The chance to absorb Riley’s offense was a major selling point for making the move.
“I felt like the opportunity to get around Coach Riley and this program and his offense and a chance to learn from him is something I couldn’t turn down,” Beamer said.
However, Riley’s decision to also have Beamer coach the H-backs and tight ends could signal a slight chance in the Sooners’ offense in the coming years.
The Sooners had college football’s top tight end in 2017 — Mark Andrews. But he started his career as a wide receiver and spent most games lining up as a slot receiver.
At Georgia, the offense used tight ends extensively in the traditional sense. They were in-line blockers as well as receivers.
The H-back role sprouted because of former standout Dimitri Flower’s talent. Riley doesn’t want to see the positions diminish because Flowers and Andrews are preparing for the NFL draft.
Bringing in Beamer gives the Sooners a chance to bridge that gap in upcoming recruiting classes.
Beamer’s special teams role is meant to take some pressure off special teams coordinator/running backs coach Jay Boulware.
“I don’t know that I anticipated or knew that the H-back and the in-line tight ends would become such a big part of the offense like it evolved into,” Riley said. “Jay’s role, in the beginning, was mostly running backs. He had a little bit of the H-back stuff here and there, then obviously the special teams coordinator is a huge job by itself. As that H-back role, that in-line tight end role continued to grow, it put more and more on him. He’s done a tremendous job. You see obviously how the play of our backs over the past few years speaks for itself.”
Bennie Wylie jumped at Oklahoma job
Wylie had stops at Texas Tech, Tennessee and Texas before he found himself looking for a new line of work after the 2013 season. He started his own gym in Abilene, Texas, — The Performance Lab — and even worked as a trainer for the NBC reality series “Strong” in 2016.
But he didn’t need any cajoling when Riley made the job offer.
“Oklahoma. That’s the appeal,” Wylie said. “You come to one of the best programs in the country. You come for longevity. There have only been four strength coaches in the history of our football program. So to be No. 5, that’s pretty good odds of being here for a while. So just that longevity, just being a part of winning, that high level or pressure of winning, that high-level expectation that we will win, we will win often. So just to be a part of that group and just to be a part of Coach Riley again has been awesome.”
Oklahoma last hired a head strength coach when Bob Stoops brought in Jerry Schmidt in December of 1998. He held the spot for 19 seasons and built up a renowned reputation in the process.
Riley paid homage to Schmidt on Friday but believes Wylie can bring something different to the program.
“We want Bennie to put his own stamp on it,” Riley said. “What Bennie does is very, very good, and I think it’s like bringing in a new offense or a new defense or this and that. You want to adapt it to the players we have here and what we need as a program. Bennie and his staff are gonna be able to do that. But you want him to be himself. You want him to put his own spin on it, too.”