FRISCO, Texas — Lincoln Riley recognizes and embraces the challenge.
Riley steps into his first head coaching position as the successor to Bob Stoops at Oklahoma, a football program that has the highest expectations internally and externally to not only win the Big 12 but compete and capture a national championship.
“Coaches have always had differing thoughts on that, right?” Riley said at Big 12 media day Monday at Ford Center. “Would you rather take over the one (program) that’s struggling so maybe the standards are a little bit lower or the one that’s better? I’ve always envisioned it being more like this.
“Of course, the expectations are there to win like they always are at Oklahoma, but that’s something I enjoy. That’s why you come to play and coach at Oklahoma: To win and win big.”
Riley, 33, spent two seasons as the Sooners’ offensive coordinator and was promoted to head coach when Stoops shocked the college football world by announcing his retirement on June 7.
“It’s probably best described as a whirlwind,” Riley said. “Tough to describe all the emotions that went into that day and that decision and still a bit of a dream for me.”
Riley said the transition has been eased with the continuity within the program, retaining the same staff and having familiarity with the players.
“It’s made it definitely a lot easier on me when I think about all I’ve done in the last month,” he said.
The Sooners are again favored to win the Big 12, led by Heisman Trophy finalist quarterback Baker Mayfield. They lost offensive playmakers such as wide receiver Dede Westbrook and running backs Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine but retain a deep talent pool.
“I feel like we have a very, very strong team coming back with some new, exciting young players that we’re excited to infuse our team with,” Riley said. “We’ve got some experienced players back at key positions, obviously with Baker at quarterback, and all of our top eight offensive linemen returning.
“We’re going to be experienced in the secondary and I think we have one of the deepest linebacking corps in the country. We’re very excited about this team.”
BOUNCE BACK FOR FROGS — Gary Patterson has had three losing seasons in 16 years at TCU and is coming off a 6-7 record in 2016.
“Any time you have a season that you don’t want to have, you want to get back in as quick as you can,” Patterson said. “I tell everybody that the good news is we have everybody back, and the bad news is we were 6-6 (regular season) and we’ve got everybody back. So, how do you make that work?”
Patterson said the Horned Frogs need to be more physical and second-year quarterback Kenny Hill must take a step forward.
“We went through a season where that was his first time,” Patterson said. “For me, I think I’ve got to do a better job of helping him with his swagger. We’ve got to give him help. I think we’re going to be better up front and we only lost one wide receiver. I think all those things benefit him, and then we’ve got to put him in an offense that bends toward his strengths.”
DEFENDING THE DEFENSE — Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury was grilled about his team’s porous defense and how it can be fixed.
Question: “I figure there may be 5,000 seniors who start on defense in Texas each year. You recruit from other states. Why can’t you get 10, 15 or 20 who can hold your opponents to 30 points or less a game?”
Kingsbury: “That’s a great question. I wish I had the answer. That’s something we work on. We haven’t been good enough defensively and we’ll continue to try and recruit the right players and develop them and get better.”
Offense hasn’t been a problem for the Red Raiders but they did lose quarterback Patrick Mahomes, the Kansas City Chiefs’ first-round draft pick, and will turn to Nic Shimonek.
“You don’t replace somebody with that type of talent,” Kingsbury said of Mahomes, “but Nic is a fifth-year senior going into his fourth year in our system. He knows it inside and out. He got some good, meaningful time in the games last year and he had a tremendous spring.”
SWITCHING SIDES — Joel Lanning started nine games at quarterback last season for Iowa State but has moved to the defensive side of the ball at linebacker, clearing the way for Jacob Park to take over at quarterback.
“We got to the end of the season and we saw one of our best football players not playing consistently and it’s my job to find an answer because that’s not good enough,” said second-year Cyclones coach Matt Campbell. “We talked initially he’d be on the offensive side, knowing that he’s a really good ball carrier. I put myself in a GM mentality of where do I see this guy? Where does this guy really fit and where can he help our football program?
“Joel always played with a linebacker’s mentality at quarterback but transitioning to now tackling and playing in space and doing those things, I think that’s been his biggest transition but it’s been fun to watch. Joel has been a beacon of excellence with our program from the day that I’ve gotten to State. You talk about laying a foundation of attitude and effort, Joel was that and has been that.”
Lanning, who late in the season was relegated to a Wildcat-package behind Park, said he hasn’t played defense since the eighth grade.
“Nothing was said right after the season, but late January or early February was when (Campbell) approached me and asked if I wanted to try linebacker,” Lanning said. “We needed depth there. I said I would do anything for the team that will make us better. It’s the most fun I’ve had playing ball for a while now playing linebacker, flying around and hitting people.”
Contact Ken Corbitt at (785) 295-1123 or @KenCorbitt on Twitter.