Back to the Future, Part II

Athletics Communications
By Athletics Communications
University of Oklahoma
MARCH 04, 2015

By John Rohde

Oklahoma football coach Bob Stoops took a step back to the future in January when he hired Lincoln Riley as his new offensive coordinator.

Stoops then reinvented a previously successful mixture to fill out the rest of his staff.

Stoops’ first staff was a combination of family, his alma mater (the University of Iowa), a crew that helped Kansas State rise from the ashes, some homegrown Oklahoma talent, a Texas import, a dash of NFL experience and a whiz kid calling offensive plays.

Stoops’ 17th staff at Oklahoma also includes similar ingredients: family, his alma mater, a crew that helped Texas Tech become one of the nation’s premier offenses, the same homegrown talent, a Texas import, a dash of NFL experience and a whiz kid calling offensive plays.

Don’t call it a comeback. Consider it a sequel!

In hiring the 31-year-old Riley, Stoops harkened back to the previous millennium when he hired 37-year-old Mike Leach as his first offensive coordinator after taking charge of the Sooners prior to the 1999 season.

The quirky and innovative Leach promptly helped Stoops resurrect a proud program back toward greatness. Leach’s creative approach landed him an offer to become Texas Tech coach after just one year at OU. The following season, the surging Sooners went undefeated and won their seventh national championship thanks in large part to the offensive attack Leach had infused.

By the time Stoops had filled the vacancies on his 2015 staff, there are similarities to the 1999 staff that Stoops hopes will recapture some of his original magic with the Sooners.

Shortly after Leach relocated to Texas Tech, Riley arrived as a walk-on quarterback. Riley never played a down for the Red Raiders – “I probably never talked to him (Leach) for more than five minutes,” Riley admitted – but it was Leach who convinced Riley to stick around and coach the team’s outside receivers.

At age 26, Riley became the nation’s youngest FBS coordinator when he was hired as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at East Carolina, where in five seasons his offenses would own the top five single-season passing totals in ECU history and the top four seasons in total offense at the school.

Stoops didn’t stop after he connected the dots with Leach and Riley, however.

By the time Stoops had filled the vacancies on his 2015 staff, there are similarities to the 1999 staff that Stoops hopes will recapture some of his original magic with the Sooners.

Stoops’ first staff at OU was as follows: Leach (offensive coordinator); Mike Stoops (co-defensive coordinator); Brent Venables (co-defensive coordinator); Mark Mangino (assistant head coach/offensive line); Jackie Shipp (defensive line); Cale Gundy (running backs); Jonathan Hayes (tight ends); Bobby Jack Wright (defensive ends); and Steve Spurrier, Jr. (wide receivers).

Leach was a protégé of longtime coach Hal Mumme, one of the originators of the “Air Raid Offense.” Mumme taught Leach, who in turn taught his assistants. Now the Sooners have Riley, who might be Leach’s prize pupil.

1999 Football Coaching Staff

“I had a direction I wanted to go,” Stoops said of hiring Riley. “I felt through the last several years we kind of gravitated away from where we started here and that was in a Mumme/Leach type system in what we’re doing and how we’re moving the football. We had some success with it through the years and just little by little here in the last several years we’ve kind of slowly drifted away from it. I had a goal in mind to get back to running that type of system and I felt I got the absolute best guy to do it. He is a guy that has come up through it, understands it inside and out, and has had success running it.”

Venables played linebacker at Kansas State, where Bob Stoops was co-defensive coordinator and Mike Stoops served as defensive ends coach before replacing his older brother as defensive coordinator. After his playing days, Venables remained at KSU as a graduate assistant and eventually became linebackers coach and defensive run game coordinator.

Mangino served as an assistant coach for two seasons (1985-86) at Youngstown State in Ohio, the same town where Ron Stoops had made his mark as football coach at Cardinal Mooney High School and also as the father of Ron, Jr., Bob, Mike, Mark and two daughters. Mangino later became an assistant at Kansas State, where he rose to assistant head coach before leaving to re-join the Stoops brothers and Venables at OU.

Hayes played alongside Stoops at Iowa, where he was a standout tight end and played 12 seasons in the NFL with the Kansas City Chiefs (1985-93) and Pittsburgh Steelers (1994-96).

Wright was a Texas native who started out as a high school coach and wound up becoming a legendary recruiter throughout the state having coached at Texas A&I (1979-82), North Texas (1983-85) and the University of Texas (1986-97).

Shipp was a Stillwater native and a standout linebacker for the Sooners (1980-83), who had coached at collegiate levels ranging from Langston University to the University of Alabama and also had NFL stints with the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings.

Gundy was a Midwest City native who played quarterback for the Sooners (1990-93) and had returned home after a stint as quarterbacks and running backs coach at the University of Alabama-Birmingham.

Stoops’ 17th staff at OU is as follows: Mike Stoops (associate head coach/defensive coordinator); Kerry Cooks (defensive backs); Tim Kish (inside linebackers); Bill Bedenbaugh (offensive line); Dennis Simmons (outside receivers); Gundy (assistant head coach/director of recruiting/inside receivers); Jay Boulware (special teams coordinator/running backs/fullbacks); Diron Reynolds (defensive line); and Riley (offensive coordinator/quarterbacks).

Every OU offensive coordinator in the Stoops era has claimed at least one Big 12 Conference title – except Leach himself.

New to the group are Cooks, Simmons, Reynolds and Riley.

Cooks is another member of coach Hayden Fry’s family tree at Iowa, where he was an All-Big Ten safety, just like Bob Stoops. Drafted by the Minnesota Vikings, Cooks also had stints with the Green Bay Packers, Atlanta Falcons and Jacksonville Jaguars. He then returned to Big Ten territory, coaching for one season at Minnesota and four seasons at Wisconsin. Cooks spent the last five seasons at Notre Dame, where he coached outside linebackers, defensive backs and served as co-defensive coordinator. Cooks also qualifies as a Texas import. A native of Irving, Cooks has known Boulware since the fourth grade and they were high school teammates.

Although Simmons played linebacker at BYU, his forte has become coaching outside receivers, which he has done for Leach at Texas Tech (2008-09) and Washington State (2012-14). In between, he spent two seasons with Riley at East Carolina (2010-11). Simmons has coached many proficient receivers, most notably Michael Crabtree at Texas Tech. Last season, Simmons guided former basketball player Vince Mayle, who tied for fourth nationally in receptions (106) and fifth in receiving yards (1,483).

Reynolds spent more than a decade in the NFL ranks with the Indianapolis Colts, Miami Dolphins and Minnesota Vikings. He worked for head coaches Tony Dungy and Jim Caldwell with the Colts and alongside assistant John Teerlinck, who is widely regarded as the greatest defensive line coach of all-time, having coached in 32 playoff games, six championship games and four Super Bowls (winning two with the Denver Broncos and one with the Colts). Reynolds worked under Stanford coach David Shaw last season on a team that ranked third nationally in total defense.

In an effort to keep things fresh throughout his entire staff rather than just with the new additions, Bob Stoops also repositioned many of the incumbent coaches.

Mike Stoops will now coach outside linebackers rather than safeties; Gundy has become assistant head coach and will now coach inside receivers rather than running backs; Boulware will now coach running backs and fullbacks rather than tight ends; and former assistant defensive coordinator Kish will now coach inside linebackers. Bedenbaugh will remain as offensive line coach.

Every OU offensive coordinator in the Stoops era has claimed at least one Big 12 Conference title – except Leach himself. (The Sooners tied for second in the South Division in Leach’s lone season.)
• Mangino (2000 Big 12 title) served as the Sooners’ offensive coordinator in 2000-01 before leaving to coach Kansas.
• Chuck Long and Kevin Wilson (2002 and 2004 Big 12 titles) served as co-offensive coordinators from 2002-05 before Long left to become coach at San Diego State.
• Wilson (2006, 2007, 2008 and 2010 Big 12 titles) was offensive coordinator from 2006-10 and then left to become Indiana’s coach.
• Heupel, whom Leach recruited as his first quarterback with the Sooners, served as coordinator from 2011-14 and tied for first in 2012, two years after the final Big 12 championship game.

Now Riley will try to make another branch grow on the Mumme/Leach tree.

It’s Back to the Future, Part II for Stoops as this coaching staff makeover in his 17th season is eerily similar to his original OU staff that helped re-launch the Sooners back into the national football conversation.

About John Rohde
rohde mugJohn Rohde is a respected name on the Oklahoma sports scene and will provide regular features for Voted Oklahoma Sportswriter of the Year five times, Rohde has covered OU football and basketball, the Oklahoma City Thunder, OKC/New Orleans Hornets, Dallas Cowboys, Texas Rangers, the Final Four, Masters and PGA Tour. He spent over 26 years for The Oklahoman, serving as a columnist and beat writer. He can be heard on 107.7 The Franchise, the flagship station for OU Athletics weekdays from 5:30-9 a.m.



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