Oklahoma conducted its first preseason practice on Monday. For Lincoln Riley, that was nothing new. It’s the third straight he’s come up with the plan for the Sooners’ offense.
But that’s where the similarities end. The first-year head coach and at 33 years old the youngest in the FBS is responsible for the entire product now. What he’ll start learning now is how much responsibility he must delegate when it comes to that prolific offense.
Riley has ideas, but definitive answers aren’t available.
“I think it’s just going to be a different answer for different points during the year,” Riley said at the Big 12 Media Days.
As it stands, Riley has more on his plate than his mentor — former Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops.
Stoops put his coordinators in charge of play calling and devising schemes from the beginning. He was deeply involved in game planning and practices. Stoops worked with defensive backs during his tenure because it was his area of expertise as a position coach.
Riley will remain the Sooners’ offensive play caller this season. That means he’ll also be the primary game strategist, offensive practice planner and quarterbacks coach.
If that sounds like a lot to oversee, it is. The Sooners coach sat down in June and studied his daily tasks as offensive coordinator. Finding tasks to delegate was the goal.
“Kind of laid out my entire weekly schedule from previous years as a coordinator about where can I give, giving things to different guys on our staff,” he said.
Coaches retaining play-calling duties is common. However, veterans tend to realize they need to give it up. The job’s scope can be overwhelming.
Riley seemed to understand this once he received the promotion.
Offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh and inside receivers coach Cale Gundy were both promoted to co-offensive coordinators by Riley.
Gundy is the coaching staff’s longest-serving member. He’s starting his 19th season at Oklahoma. Bedenbaugh is one of the most respected offensive line coaches in the country. They can handle added responsibility.
“I think it’s going to be, the only thing is Coach Stoops is not here,” Bedenbaugh said. “We’re doing, there’s a few here and there, but nothing big enough that anyone on the outside would see, so it’s going to run pretty much the same.”
What Riley wants to install is consistency. Every subtle change has a ripple effect. Those can be either positive or negative.
“Something as simple as scripting plays for a period in practice, or creating a menu for practice, or a practice schedule,” Riley said. “Just little things I just always hated to give up over the years but can be easily given up. We’ve got plenty of guys who can do that very well. There are some things like that; there’s some things even in the media.”
For the last several years under Stoops, only the offensive and defensive coordinators were consistently available for interviews once the season began.
Riley hasn’t laid out his media policy yet. Like many things, he’s playing it by feel until he decides what works best. Expect the wrinkles to be ironed out when they arise.
“He has a job to manage the whole team, as the head coach. He will do it because that is his job,” defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. “He knows what his job is, so we just gotta support him the best we can.”