One of the handful of coordinator openings that has attracted a ton of attention so far this coaching cycle has been the defensive coordinator job on Lincoln Riley's staff, and for good reason.
The first two seasons under Riley will be remembered for decades to come as some of the most electric offenses in college football history, all while being led by two different Heisman trophy winning quarterbacks. Defense however, has not been their strong suit in either of their runs under Riley into the College Football Playoff.
Riley decided to make a coordinator change on the defensive side of the ball back in October, letting go Mike Stoops shortly after a 48-45 shootout loss to Texas proved to be "the straw that broke the camel's back." Riley promoted assistant head coach and defensive tackles coach Ruffin McNeil to the post while he searched for a full-time solution, and promoted Bob Diaco from defensive analyst to outside linebackers coach.
After their 45-34 loss to Alabama over the weekend in the Orange Bowl, Riley reflected and vowed to take a step back and make sure they get the very best candidate possible.
"I think at the end of the day, to me, the scheme is - obviously you want somebody that's good scheme-wise, but to me, the scheme is down the line a little bit for me. We've gotta have somebody that can help us in building the culture that we want defensively."
"I think a guy that can lead men, and then a guy that can obviously give us a great scheme to help us win, just to continue to improve us as the talent continues to rise on that side, which it is and it's gonna continue to do so. That to me, somebody that can galvanize that group from that position and somebody that can create that culture that we want on that side of the ball is gonna be toward the top of my list."
Riley also shared that he'll treat the defensive coordinator choice with very much the same blueprint that Bob Stoops did when Riley arrived in Norman.
"I can't imagine that there is anything that he could've done for me that he didn't do to help get me ready or give me confidence, or give me the leeway to not feel like he was sitting there over my shoulder. Everything he told me that would happen from his end did."
Barring early departures for the NFL draft, or transfers, whoever Riley brings in to run the defense will inherit a good situation, as 10 of Oklahoma's 11 starters on defense are set to return.
See Riley's full quote below.