Beamer, Wylie on Campus and Ready to Go

John Rohde
By John Rohde
Special to

Oklahoma football coach Lincoln Riley looked to his past to fill two staff positions in the present.

On Jan. 16, Riley harkened back to his impressionable days at Texas Tech and hired Bennie Wylie as the program's new director of sports performance.

One week later, Riley thought of his days as East Carolina's offensive coordinator and the showdowns against Virginia Tech and associate head coach Shane Beamer, who will now serve as the Sooners' assistant head coach for offense, coaching tight ends and H-backs while also helping with special teams.

"I'm thrilled with the two hires," Riley said at a news conference on Friday afternoon. "I don't think it could have gone any better. It feels like these two guys have been here for years now. They've really meshed in well, which is a credit to those two guys."

Wylie replaces Jerry Schmidt, who arrived from Florida alongside Gators defensive coordinator Bob Stoops in December of 1998 when Stoops was named OU head coach.

"I wanted to make sure I was doing it the right way, talking to a number of people and making sure my mind was purely settled on one guy, and it all kept coming back to Bennie Wylie."
Lincoln Riley

"When that job first came open, my mind immediately kind of zipped to one guy," Riley said of Wylie. "I talked to several (candidates) throughout the selection process. I wanted to make sure I was doing it the right way, talking to a number of people and making sure my mind was purely settled on one guy, and it all kept coming back to Bennie Wylie."

Like his predecessor with the Sooners, Wylie has a reputation as one of the top strength and conditioning coaches in the country. He previously served as head strength and conditioning coach for football at Texas Tech (2002-09), then became the strength and head conditioning coach at Tennessee (2010) and Texas (2011-13). Wiley most recently was director of performance at The Performance Lab, a private group-training strength and fitness center in Abilene, Texas.

Wylie previously served an assistant strength and conditioning coach with the Dallas Cowboys (1999-02) under former OU strength and conditioning coach Joe Juraszek, helping rehabilitate injured players. Wylie also spent spring seasons heading the strength and conditioning program for the Dallas Desperados arena football team.

Riley was a walk-on quarterback at Texas Tech when he met Wylie in 2003. "I literally have watched him grow up," Wylie said of the 34-year-old OU boss.

Asked what it was like to get a call from a head coach he originally knew as a college student, Wylie said, "The call, of course, is excitement. That's the first thing. But then you have this different sense of pride. I'm so proud of him, what he's done, what he's become and how fast he's done that. ... Then you're so jacked up and excited to come to this town and this university."

Riley and Wylie will tap into a bond that dates back 16 years, which is extremely important given the vital relationship between the head coach and strength and conditioning coach.

"That trust factor is unbelievable," Wylie said. "He's got to trust me and I've got to trust him. He's got to know when I want them to go a little more and he's got to say, 'Do what you do.' All those different things are so important. I'm his extension. I'm his voice in the off-season. I'm his voice in the spring when he can't be around. ... That connection is unique."

Beamer's hiring was made possible by the NCAA measure last April that allows Division I programs to add a 10th on-field assistant coach.

"There was a lot of talk within our business, 'What do you do with that coach? When do you hire him?'" Riley explained. "The more I thought about it, my initial strategy was to be patient. I wanted to make sure before I went and hired that 10th coach that our staff was going to remain intact. I did not want to go rush hiring a 10th coach, then maybe the staff shifts some way, and then maybe wish I had done something else with this position. I was definitely patient with it. I really did not give it much thought throughout the season until after the Rose Bowl."

Beamer's new position will include easing some of the responsibilities off special teams coordinator/running backs coach Jay Boulware.

"I've been impressed with all the positions this guy has coached," Riley said of Beamer. "He's coached just about every position that there is and has done it at a high level."

Beamer's father is legendary Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer, who coached at his alma mater from 1987-2015 and retired as the winningest active FBS coach at the time (238-121-2). Beamer closed out his career with 23 straight postseason appearances. On Jan. 8, he was selected to the College Football Hall of Fame Class of 2018.

"I've been impressed with all the positions (Shane) has coached. He's coached just about every position that there is and has done it at a high level."
Lincoln Riley

"When I think of 'Beamerball,' I think about the ability to score at any time, whether it be offense, defense or special teams," Beamer said of the program's moniker named after his father. "That was kind of his niche coming up, the special teams aspect of it. I hope the No. 1 quality I took from him is just how he treated people. I think he's a very even-keeled guy. He doesn't get too high, too low, never forgot where he came from and always kept that humility. I hope I've taken that quality from him along with some of the Xs and Os parts of it as well."

Shane Beamer played for the Hokies and made a point of leaving his alma mater after graduation when he got into coaching. "It was important to me throughout growing up, I never wanted to be just Frank Beamer's son, or for anyone to ever say, 'The only reason he got that job was because of his last name,'" Beamer said. "It was important for me to get out on my own and kind of make my own name."

Shane's coaching career began as a graduate assistant, first at Georgia Tech (2000), followed by a three-year stint at Tennessee (2001-03). Beamer then coached cornerbacks at Mississippi State (2004-06), served as special teams and outside linebackers coach at South Carolina (2007-10), associate head coach and running backs coach for his father at Virginia Tech (2011-15) and then tight ends and special teams coach at Georgia (2016-17).

It was Beamer's special teams unit that blocked a field goal attempt in double-overtime to help the Bulldogs escape with a 54-48 overtime victory over the Sooners in a College Football Payoff semifinal at the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1.

Beamer's move to Norman comes with his father's blessing. "The more and more this process went on, and the more I told him (Frank) about my conversations with coach Riley and my reasons for thinking about taking this position, the more sold he was that it was an absolute no-brainer — and that means a lot," Beamer said. "The thing that he kept saying was how blessed I am and how fortunate I am — and he's right — to be working at a place like Georgia and to then have a chance to come to a place like this."

Beamer said his decision to come to OU was influenced beyond just football. "I can't tell you how many people told me I was going to work for the best athletic director (Joe Castiglione) in the nation," Beamer said.

The Sooners' annual spring game will take place April 14 at 1 p.m.