Skip to main content

The question Lincoln Riley asks himself in handling head coach and play-calling duties

It's not as if he had a ton of free time before. Over the course of one day last month, Lincoln Riley, the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma, added Bob Stoops's job on top of his already-crazy-busy job. The obvious question for the 33-year-old first time head coach: how are you possibly going to manage being the head coach while also remaining the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

Riley answers that question with another question to himself.

"I've started the other way: where can I afford to give offensively?"

"I laid out my weekly schedule from previous years as a coordinator," he said Monday at Big 12 media days. "Where can I give? Giving things to different guys on our staff. Having the whole offensive staff back is huge. Where can I give on some areas as far as the head coaching stuff and then you just start creating time. Building up time, and then eventually getting a schedule that I've got to stay very diligent with."

Riley said those changes are simple ones, changes that won't alter how the Sooners play on game day but will still carve out much-needed free time.

"It may be something as simple as scripting plays for a period in practice or creating the menu for practice, the practice schedules, things I just always hated to give up over the years that can easily be given up," he said. "We've got plenty of guys that can do that very well. Not any giant changes anywhere, but enough to create enough time to do what I need to do."

Kliff Kingsbury, another first-time head coach who has kept his play-calling duties snuggled in his chest, said (naturally) that he would do the same thing in Riley's shoes, particularly with Baker Mayfield returning for his third year in Riley's system. But Riley said the plan is to remain the plan well beyond Mayfield's impending graduation.

"I really see myself doing it long term right now," he said. "I love that part of it, and if I can manage it and do it the way we think we can, then I will. If there's ever a point where I thought it would be better for the team to not do it I certainly would think about that."

The key phrase in that above paragraph comes at the end of Riley's final sentence: right now. Riley worked with one coach who will never give up play-calling duties (Mike Leach) and another who has (Dana Holgorsen). Mark Richt gave up play-calling duties at Georgia, only to grow to regret it and reclaim them at Miami. Riley's answer may change when he suffers through -- God forbid -- his first single-digit win season at Oklahoma.

But the plan is the plan. For now.