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#pounditWednesday, December 1, 2021

College Football

Spencer Rattler enters transfer portal after Lincoln Riley’s exit

Spencer Rattler holds a ball

Oklahoma lost its head coach on Sunday when Lincoln Riley shockingly left for USC, and the Sooners are now out at least one quarterback as well.

Former five-star recruit Spencer Rattler announced on Monday that he will enter the transfer portal. He thanked Oklahoma and said his time in Norman is something he will “cherish forever.”

Things did not go as planned for Rattler at Oklahoma even with Riley. Many expected him to follow in the footsteps of the other great quarterbacks that played under Riley, but Rattler took a big step back this season. He was benched earlier in the year, though he did briefly got his job back two weeks ago.

Rattler had been expected to leave Oklahoma even if Riley stayed. The bigger problem for the Sooners is that freshman Caleb Williams, who took over for Rattler midway through the season, may also be thinking about transferring.

Photo: Oklahoma’s Spencer Rattler (7) warms up before a college football game between the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Okla., Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021

Report details how much Lincoln Riley blindsided Oklahoma in exit

Lincoln Riley at a press conference

Lincoln Riley’s decision to leave Oklahoma for USC stunned the college football world on Sunday. It turns out that those inside the Oklahoma program weren’t any more aware of what was coming than the public was.

A new report from Jason Kersey of The Athletic details how those around the Oklahoma program learned of Riley’s decision. Assistant coaches and players essentially found out at the same time as public did.

Staffers and players were described as “angry” and “shocked” not just by Riley’s departure, but the manner he left.

Riley apparently told his coaching staff that he was leaving for USC just before meeting with his players. All of this reportedly happened around the same time the news was publicly reported. The abruptness of Riley’s departure even left players unsure of whether they were practicing this week.

One staffer remarked that he “(didn’t) have a job right now.” Some around the program attributed Riley’s move to seeking an easier path to the College Football Playoff, which may become tougher for Oklahoma when they join the SEC.

Riley’s departure even caught local TV off-guard. Riley was scheduled to tape his weekly replay show on Sunday, but word did not come through until just before taping that the coach would be “delayed.” Riley ultimately didn’t show up at all for the taping.

There have been surprising coaching moves before, but few have been this shocking. Even the biggest hires usually have some sort of rumor associated with them. There was absolutely nothing linking Riley to USC. There was some chatter about him going to another school, but he firmly shot that down less than 24 hours before leaving.

The Sooners will now have to embark on a coaching search they clearly didn’t expect to have to undertake. Only one name has surfaced so far, and it seems pretty far-fetched.

Photo: Jul 14, 2021; Arlington, TX, USA; Oklahoma Sooners head coach Lincoln Riley speaks to the media during Big 12 media days at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Could Sonny Dykes ditch TCU for Oklahoma?

Sonny Dykes during pregame

Oklahoma is scrambling for a head coach after losing Lincoln Riley to USC. Numerous names have been mentioned as potential candidates for the Sooners job, including Mark Stoops and Josh Heupel. But one reporter added another name to the mix: Sonny Dykes.

Dykes just completed his fifth season at SMU and went 8-4 (he’s 30-18 overall at SMU). He was an extremely hot candidate following a 7-0 start to the season, which led Texas Tech and TCU to compete for him. TCU won out, and Dykes is set to be introduced as the Horned Frogs’ head coach on Tuesday.

But the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Mac Engel says there is mutual interest between Dykes and Oklahoma. Engel says that is a situation to watch out for.

It would be hard to imagine Dykes screwing over both SMU and TCU in the same month, but Engel says that’s a possibility.

I doubt it.

It would be incredibly poor form for Dykes to ditch TCU. He also should know better than to go to a school that’s headed to the SEC. Dykes’ tenure in the Pac-12 at Cal went poorly (19-30 over four seasons). It would be much worse for him in the SEC, and at Oklahoma, where expectations to win are much higher.

Stay at TCU, Sonny.

Photo: Dec 20, 2017; Frisco, TX, United States; Southern Methodist Mustangs head coach Sonny Dykes on the field before the game against the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs in the 2017 Frisco Bowl at Toyota Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

USC takes victory lap in announcing Lincoln Riley hire

Lincoln Riley in a hat and headset

The USC Trojans are taking a well-deserved victory lap in their announcement of the hire of Lincoln Riley as head coach.

USC officially confirmed the Riley hire on Sunday night, shocking the college football world by hiring him away from Oklahoma. The football team’s Twitter account opened the announcement with quite the pronunciation: “We got our guy.”

USC athletic director Mike Bohn released his own statement accompanying the announcement. Bohn dedicated the hire to current and former players and supporters, and made an even more authoritative remark: “Our time is now.”

These aren’t normal statements that accompany a coaching hire, but USC knows it has hit a home run. Riley is one of the game’s hottest coaches. Any school that thought it could get him would have tried. The fact that USC, a program that has struggled in recent years, pulled it off is really remarkable.

One thing is clear: USC does not plan on this being a lengthy rebuild. They have reason to be confident that it won’t be. After all, there is already talk about some stars following Riley to LA.

Photo: Photo: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Oklahoma bringing back program legend to coach bowl game

Oklahoma Sooners logo

Lincoln Riley is leaving Oklahoma to take the head coaching job at USC, which means he will not coach the Sooners for their bowl game. Fortunately, they will be in the capable hands of a program legend.

Bob Stoops will coach Oklahoma in their bowl game, according to Bruce Feldman and Antonio Morales of The Athletic. Stoops was present on Sunday at a meeting in which Riley informed players that he is leaving for USC.

Stoops, who was Oklahoma’s head coach from 1999-2016, has been helping Riley out with the program in a number of ways. The former national champion helped coached the Sooners last season when Riley was short-staffed due to COVID-19 issues. The two have maintained a close relationship since Riley was the offensive coordinator under Stoops and then inherited his head coaching position.

Of course, there have been plenty of rumors about Stoops coming back to coach Oklahoma on a full-time basis. He’s only 61, which is young by coaching standards. His son Drake is also a wide receiver for the Sooners. However, Stoops recently made it fairly clear that he is not interested in coaching at the moment.

Former Wisconsin coaching legend Barry Alvarez twice served as interim head coach for the Badgers in bowl games after he transitioned from coach to athletic director. He did not stay on as head coach either time, so there is precedent for Stoops to just return as the coach at Oklahoma for one game.

Did Caleb Williams hint he will transfer to follow Lincoln Riley to USC?

Caleb Williams in uniform

Lincoln Riley is leaving Oklahoma for USC. Now the question is: which players are going to follow him?

One prominent player who would make a huge difference if he left the Sooners for the Trojans is quarterback Caleb Williams. The freshman quarterback on Sunday shared his first message regarding the Riley news.

Williams said he was happy for Riley. He also indicated he might have some other news coming when he said “that’s all I plan to say right now!”

Williams saying “right now” implies he will have more news later. Perhaps that news will be that he is going to transfer to follow his coach.

One ESPN analyst certainly expects Williams to transfer to USC.

Williams took over for the struggling Spencer Rattler midway through the season at Oklahoma. He has passed for 1,670 yards, 18 touchdowns and four interceptions this season.

Even if Williams doesn’t transfer, Riley still would have current junior Kedon Slovis and current freshman Jaxson Dart on USC’s roster to work with. Either player should excel under Riley.

Photo: Oklahoma’s Caleb Williams (13) before a college football game between the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and the Iowa State Cyclones at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Okla., Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021.

Will Oklahoma QB recruit Malachi Nelson follow Lincoln Riley to USC?

Malachi Nelson poses

USC’s impending hiring of Lincoln Riley will make a huge difference for the program. Riley had legitimate success at Oklahoma, going 12-2 in three straight seasons, while coaching an explosive offense. Not only should he be able to bring his successful offense/passing game to the Pac-12, but there is another big benefit to hiring him.

Even though he was at Oklahoma, Riley was already recruiting the talent-rich Southern California area well. As Inside USC’s Scott Wolf noted, Riley had the No. 1 recruiting class for 2023 at Oklahoma. Much of that was centered around three top players from Los Alamitos, a successful high school located about 30 miles south of USC.

Wolf wondered how long it would be before Los Alamitos quarterback Malachi Nelson follows Riley to USC.

If Nelson switches, it stands to reason that his high school wide receiver teammates would switch too. Riley might be able to flip the entire package.

Nelson is just behind Arch Manning when it comes to 2023 quarterback rankings. He seemed to enjoy being committed to Oklahoma, but he could still change his mind and follow Riley.

Any player from SoCal who committed to Riley at Oklahoma might find it even more enticing to stay home in Los Angeles.

Report: Oklahoma targeting prominent NFL coach as Lincoln Riley replacement

Lincoln Riley at a press conference

Oklahoma is searching for a new head coach after Lincoln Riley rocked the college football world by agreeing to a deal with USC on Sunday. The job should attract plenty of strong candidates, and apparently the Sooners are aiming incredibly high.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that the Sooners are targeting Kliff Kingsbury as a potential replacement for Riley.

As Schefter noted, Kingsbury’s current contract with the Cardinals only runs through 2022. It is incredibly unlikely that he would leave his NFL coaching job for college, but he may act like he has interest in Oklahoma for leverage.

The Cardinals have improved in each of Kingsbury’s three seasons with the team and are 9-2 this year. They’re one of the best teams in the NFC and have a young franchise quarterback in Kyler Murray. Kingsbury would be insane to leave that job for Oklahoma or any other college coaching job, even if he still likes to stir the pot with college fans.

Photo: Jul 14, 2021; Arlington, TX, USA; Oklahoma Sooners head coach Lincoln Riley speaks to the media during Big 12 media days at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Lincoln Riley reportedly expected to become next USC head coach

Lincoln Riley in a hat and headset

The USC Trojans are trying to make a splash with their next head coaching hire, and it looks like they might succeed.

The Trojans are targeting Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley to fill their coaching vacancy, according to Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports. Negotiations are advanced enough that Thamel expects a formal announcement within the next 24 hours.

The report was confirmed a short time later by Bruce Feldman of The Athletic.

This is an absolute stunner, and it comes out of nowhere. Riley had been linked to LSU over the past week, but he firmly denied those rumors on Saturday. That was taken by most as a signal that Riley had no interest in leaving the Sooners. Apparently, it may have been because he had something else in the works instead.

Riley taking the USC job signifies an enormous shift in the college football landscape. He has established himself as one of the sport’s top coaches, posting a 55-10 record with Oklahoma since taking over in 2017. It will be a huge coup for USC, a program that has been looking to re-establish itself as a title contender for the better part of a decade. This would bring that goal closer to reality, and will undoubtedly provide a huge boost to recruiting as well.

Photo: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Billy Napier will reportedly be named head coach at Florida

Billy Napier wearing a headset

Billy Napier has been viewed as the clear frontrunner to replace Dan Mullen as the head coach at Florida, and he is expected to reach an agreement with the school in the near future.

Napier and Florida are working to finalize an agreement, Bruce Feldman of The Athletic reports. The deal could be done as early as Sunday afternoon.

It seems like the Gators knew who they wanted from the moment they fired Mullen. There was at least one other school that reportedly showed interest in Napier, but it’s no surprise he chose Florida.

Napier has won at least 10 games in each of the past three seasons as the head coach at Louisiana, where he has been since 2018. He has never coached a Power Five school, but he was the wide receivers coach on Nick Saban’s staff at Alabama from 2013-2016. Florida obviously has a great deal of confidence in his ability to recruit and compete in the SEC.

Photo: Cajuns head coach Billy Napier on sideline as Louisiana Ragin Cajuns take on the Miami University Redhawks in the Lending Tree Bowl in Mobile, AL. Monday, Jan. 6, 2020