The most pivotal hire of the Lincoln Riley era is in, and it’s Alex Grinch.

Oklahoma announced on Friday evening, after The Athletic first reported the hiring on Friday morning, that Grinch was the club’s new defensive coordinator.

FootballScoop first reported on Dec. 27 that the job was Grinch’s if he wanted it.

“Alex has an outstanding track record as a defensive coach and a defensive coordinator,” said Riley. “He’s been one of the most sought-after guys in the country here the last couple of years, especially for the work that he did at Washington State. Taking that defense where he did in a short amount of time is one of the best coaching jobs in the country over the last several years.

“I have a lot of mutual contacts and people I trust in the business who have worked with Alex, and they all speak highly of his ability to not only be one of the best schematically, but also a guy who will help build the culture that we want and expect here at Oklahoma on the defensive side.”

A Broyles Award semifinalist in 2017, Grinch made his name on the national scene during a 3-year stint at Washington State in which he took a defense that was No. 103 nationally in yards per play the year prior to his arrival to No. 34 in 2017.

That success led Grinch, a Grove City, Ohio native, to join the Ohio State staff as co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach in 2018. His arrival signaled he was the heir apparent to take over full control of the defense upon Greg Schiano’s inevitable departure, but now 12 months later Urban Meyer is gone, Ryan Day is Ohio State’s head coach, Schiano is still in Columbus and now Grinch is on his way to Norman.

“This is a unique opportunity at one of the premier institutions under elite leadership,” said Grinch. “Oklahoma is in the top one percent. There’s no faking it in this business. You’re either it or you’re not. Oklahoma is one of those programs.”

His arrival comes at a pivotal time for Oklahoma. The Sooners are 24-4 with two Big 12 championships and two College Football Playoff trips but have seen both seasons — highlighted by Heisman Trophy play from two separate quarterbacks — undone by failing defense. Oklahoma was No. 82 in yards per play in 2017, then slipped to No. 102 this fall.

With Riley sticking around to tutor future Sooners quarterbacks, a Washington State-like turnaround in Norman would make Oklahoma a perennial national title contender.

At least, that’s the expectation.

As always, stay tuned to The Scoop for the latest.

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National columnist - Zach joined the staff in 2012...and has been attempting to improve Doug and Scott's writing ability ever since (to little avail). Outside of football season, you can find him watching the San Antonio Spurs reading Game of Thrones fan theories.