Lincoln Riley looked at ease.
The 33-year-old is nearing his first season as the head coach at Oklahoma, where he became the handpicked replacement of Bob Stoops when Stoops made the surprising decision to retire back in June. Stoops, OU’s head coach since 1999, has been a steady presence in the Big 12, but Riley looked the part in his first turn at the conference’s media days Monday in Frisco, Texas.
And why wouldn’t he? Riley was OU’s offensive coordinator the last two seasons, helping the Sooners put up huge numbers and win back-to-back Big 12 titles. The team returns a ton of talent and was picked to repeat as champions. Even with all of that familiarity, Riley made it a point to earn the respect of his players, all of whom were recruited by Stoops.
“Our players, I appreciate them so much for the way they handled this,” Riley said. “I told them in our first meeting, you know, they signed up to come play for a different head coach. I wasn’t the guy that recruited them, and I don’t feel like that they should have to accept me just because now I’m the head coach. I feel like that’s something that I should have to earn, and I told them that I would give them every ounce I have to get that done.”
He only coached under Stoops for two seasons, but Riley learned a ton — especially Stoops’ ability to sense “the pulse of the team.” Riley said he plans to continue to lean on Stoops for advice even as Stoops enjoys his retirement.
Riley took so much from his time with Stoops that many media members said he is beginning to sound like Stoops, especially in his vocal cadence. One reporter mentioned it to Riley when asking a question. In response, Riley said he doesn’t envision himself as “Bob Stoops 2.0.” He’ll put his own touch on the program as he sees fit.
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“I think he and I are very similar. Had I left and taken a head coaching job somewhere else, I would have carried a lot of things he does with me,” Riley said. “But I’m comfortable with myself and being myself. I don’t have an ego in this, and say, well, I’ve got to change things just because I’m the head coach, and I don’t want to seem like I’m just trying to be Bob Stoops 2.0.
“I want to use the things I think are right, and if there’s a few things I think fit my personality better or can help us as a team, then I’m certainly not going to hesitate to do those either.”
Patterson, TCU ready for bounce-back year
Gary Patterson is honest about his team’s six-win output from 2016.
“I tell everybody that the good news is we have everybody back, and the bad news is we were 6-6 and we got everybody back,” Patterson cracked in his opening statement Monday. “So how do you make that work?”
Well for one, Patterson needs — and expects — more out of quarterback Kenny Hill. The surrounding cast will have to do its part, too.
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“I think I’ve got to do a better job of helping [Hill] with his swagger,” Patterson said. “We’ve got to give him help. We’ve got to catch the ball better. I think we’re going to be better up front offensive line wise. We only lost one wide receiver. So I think all those things benefit him and then we’ve got to put him in an offense too that bends toward his strengths.”
Defense has been Patterson’s calling card at TCU. The Horned Frogs had one of the better units in the Big 12 in 2016, but it wasn’t to Patterson’s standards. Above all, Patterson said his team needs to be tougher in 2017.
“At the end of the year, we got beat up in the second half against a couple of teams. We’ve got to be stronger. We’ve got to be more physical and mentally tough,” Patterson said. “We’ve got to go on the road six games this year, counting Fayetteville to go to Arkansas, besides the league games. I started talking to them in January about being road tested. When we’ve been good here, we’ve been able to play on the road, and we’re going to have to do that again this year.”
Beaty looking for continued growth
It’s been a slow rebuild for David Beaty at Kansas to the tune of one Big 12 win in two seasons. That win, an overtime decision over Texas, has given the Jayhawks something to build off. Beaty said Monday the program is on “an upward trend,” and he sees his team continuing on that path, especially with new offensive coordinator Doug Meacham (via TCU) calling plays.
“Doug and I have been friends for a number of years. I’ve recruited against him. He actually recruited my school when I was a high school coach. That’s where I first met him,” Beaty said. “He taught me a lot of ball. Spent a lot of time with him. Always wanted to work with the guy. Always wanted to work with him. So that relationship started a long time ago.
“When I first got to Kansas, I called him ten times and I told him, ‘You can have all the money. I’ll hire everybody else for a dollar. You can have it all. What’s it going to take to get you here?’ Because I just think that much of him.”
Kansas enters preseason camp with a wide open quarterback battle between Carter Stanley, who started three games (including Texas) in 2016, and junior college transfer Peyton Bender, who began his career backing up Luke Falk at Washington State.
Beaty said he can’t go wrong with either. He loves Stanley’s toughness and ability to extend plays while Beaty said Bender has “an unbelievably quick release.”
Oh, and the two are roommates.
“They are really, really close friends, and it’s going to be a battle because both of them want to take that job,” Beaty said. “The other thing that I talk to these guys all the time about is, if you just look at our league over the last two to three years, very few of us have been able to go through the entire schedule with just one guy playing the entire year. So for us, we feel very fortunate that we have two really capable guys right now at that place.”
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Kingsbury not sweating the heat
Other than asking why a Justin Bieber song played as he approached the microphone, Kliff Kingsbury opted not to give an opening statement to kick off his news conference this year. Once the questions began, it didn’t take long for the Texas Tech head coach to hear about how bad TTU’s defense has been during his four seasons. One guy even asked why TTU can’t “get 10, 15 or 20 recruits who can hold opponents to 30 points or less a game.”
Well, how is he going to fix it? It starts with staff consistency under defensive coordinator David Gibbs, Kingsbury said.
“As a head coach, it falls on me, no question. I think middle of year two we made a change where we kind of had to start over, and coach Gibbs came in. It wasn’t the greatest situation, no question, and he’s still working through that,” Kingsbury said.
“I think going into year three, we have the same defensive coordinator for the first time at Texas Tech in a long time. He’s been able to bring in players that fit his scheme. He’s been able to bring in coaches that he’s comfortable with. So I expect to see us be improved.”
With a 24-26 record in four years, Kingsbury knows those projected defensive improvements need to reflect in the win column. Otherwise, he could be out of a job.
“We know we have to be much improved. But that’s part of the job. I think that everybody but the four that make the playoff every year are basically on the hot seat in college football. You’re coaching for your job every year, and we know that,” Kingsbury said.
“I don’t feel any more pressure than I ever have. I always expect to win and give Texas Tech what it deserves and their fans and their alumni and that university. So to me, we’re moving forward and have tried to improve all our processes, but as far as added pressure, it’s not something we try to dwell upon.”
Campbell: Lanning a ‘beacon of excellence’
Iowa State went 3-9 in Matt Campbell’s first season, but six of those losses were by 10 points or less. Late in the year, ISU finally notched its first two conference wins of the year, besting Kansas and Texas Tech. That growth, Campbell said, helped propel his team into the offseason.
“I think we learned some great lessons across the board, and really you saw our football team get better as last football season went on,” Campbell said. “We were able to take some of those really great traits and really take our understanding and growth process into the months of January and February and March and I saw our football team really come together.”
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Campbell made the switch to Jacob Park at quarterback midway through the season, leaving 14-game starter Joel Lanning in more of a ball-carrying role. With Park entrenched as the starter at quarterback, Campbell mulled ways to get Lanning — one of the team’s best athletes — on the field. In the spring, Lanning was inserted at middle linebacker. On Monday, the senior was listed as the starter.
“Joel has kind of been a beacon of excellence within our program really from the day that I’ve gotten to Iowa State,” Campbell said. “We got to the end of the football season, and we saw one of our best football players not playing consistently for our football team. I think we initially talked after the season of maybe he’d be on the offensive side knowing that he’s really good with the ball in his hands.
“And as I thought more of it, I almost kind of put myself in a GM mentality of where do I see this guy? So he’s taken this leadership role and really excelled on the defensive side. I probably was taken back a little bit about just as much growth as he was able to make from practice 1 through 15.”
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