When Lincoln Riley handed the reigns of the Sooners defense to Ruffin McNeill following the departure of Mike Stoops, the new defensive coordinator knew some things needed to be changed.
McNeill has always been very popular among his players, leading to the long held view that he’s a “players-coach.” Wherever he’s called the shots, McNeill has carried with him a unique idea that allows players unprecedented input on the defensive call sheet going into game days, and it’s continuing at Oklahoma.
Coming off a bye week, heading into McNeill’s debut as the Sooners defensive play caller, Ruffin gave players the option to delete anything they want from the defensive call sheet and game plan that they didn’t completely understand, according to NewsOK.
The article points out that the defensive game plan is finalized by Wednesday and nothing can be added Thursday or Friday, however, çalls can be taken off. All it takes is one guy to speak up – and that’s the way he’s done it for four decades.
“I’ve had some say, ‘Coach, I’m not sure about that. If one guy says that then it’s off,” McNeill shared.
“It’s never the call. The kids are the call. That’s what we began telling them.”
Coaches talk all the time about keeping things simple so that guys can fly around and execute at a high level, but how many are able to put the Xs and Os egos aside and put it in the hands of their players like Ruffin has been doing for years? But he’s absolutely right when he says, “The kids are the call.” Sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of that as coaches.
In the two games he’s had calling the defense so far, McNeill’s approach has helped hold TCU’s offense to 275 yards and just two offensive touchdowns, and last week they held Kansas State to 14 points in a 51-14 rout. McNeill’s fresh perspective has certainly seemed like a shot in the arm for the Sooners program.
Head here to read the full piece, including some words of wisdom from McNeill’s father that he still lives by.