Image via Tulsa World
Lincoln Riley jogs out of the tunnel onto the field against the less-than-worthy UTEP Miners with an immovable stern face. The Head Coach does not have an ounce of worry about him, dapping players and also asking each individual how they’re doing. He went through pre-game as a Head Coach for the first time in his career, but was still operating on the field as somewhat of a position coach; Most HC’s would take the CEO approach before games, not Lincoln.
Lincoln is the coach of the future: The guy has a decent twitter game, it’s imperative to him to remain in the national eye, but he also goes out of his way to know your name, your likes, dislikes, and thoughts as well. However nice all of that may sound, it is imperative to him that in its sincerest form, Riley is a Coach to the players, not their Friend. He can be a Mentor, but will not act as a Buddy. Around campus at the start of the new school year, one can hear Mike Stoops screaming at his guys and it sounds like an average day in the fall— when Lincoln shouts, it’s intense, but it serves as a teaching moment. Many coaches can adopt this idea of yelling at their players and think the message is communicated clearly, but Riley understands that he must know his players well enough to realize shouting isn’t the only method of coaching; simple small talks, quick chats after practice, and even wrapping his arm around one of his guys in the locker room before recovery and shower.
It’s clear that the new coach in Norman has ambition— but September 9th looms: One Massive Opportunity. Should Riley truly be able to master a game plan to take a win from Urban Meyer, something that his mentor and predecessor was never able to do, he will be knighted in his Kingdom on the Prairie and solidified as the Coach for the Future. However, should Oklahoma not be able to come out of Columbus victorious, another opportunity awaits for Riley and his staff. How will he respond, both to the media and the following weeks to ensue? Should they lose to the touted Buckeyes, could Riley reel off another streak and possibly skyrocket into the College Football Playoff?
After all, one game and a few press conferences including the introduction of the thirty-four year old ball coach is a rather minuscule sample in relation to Bob Stoops’ career, but it’s promising. With Lincoln’s life and career paths, his ambitions are incredibly clear, but can he capitalize on the opportunity he’s been given in Norman? If there is a correlation between what he’s previously experienced in his life, I think the outcome is likely to be a positive one.