It’s not easy taking over for a legend. Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley has succeeded in a major way in doing so, guiding the Sooners to the College Football Playoff in both of his first two seasons since taking over for Bob Stoops, the winningest coach in program history.
Now Ryan Day is faced with a similar situation at Ohio State. Earlier this week, Urban Meyer announced his retirement effective immediately after the Rose Bowl, and the Buckeyes handed the keys over to the 39-year-old Day.
Prior to the College Football Awards Show, Riley offered his advice to the offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach, interestingly enough the same post Riley had before ascending to the head coaching position.
“Well, I think it’s a challenge,” Riley said. “I think more than anything you’ve got to believe in yourself, you’ve got to be yourself. That was the best advice that I got from Coach Stoops when this happened. You know, I’m lucky he was always, has been and still is there when anything comes up that I need to pick his brain about. That happens often, and I’m very, very appreciative for that. I know in a lot of situations it doesn’t work that smoothly.
“And so you’re going to have a lot of great people around you, a lot of great opinions, but at the end of the day they hired you because they believe in you, and so you need to be yourself. You can’t try to be the guy that was there before you or what everybody thinks you’re supposed to be. You’ve got to do it the way that you believe is right, trust your instincts, and I think he’ll do a phenomenal job. He’s done it there. He’s set up there at a tremendous program.
“There are certainly challenges, expectations, all that that comes with it, but that’s why you want to coach at places like this, because you have challenges, but you also have great opportunities. And I’m sure he’ll do a fantastic job.”
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If you count the beginning of this season, Day is already off to a 3-0 start. With Meyer suspended for the start of the year, Day led the Buckeyes to three straight victories, including triumphs over Oregon State, Rutgers and TCU in AT&T Stadium. He’ll take over an Ohio State program that has won back-to-back Big Ten Championships and three of the last five, as well as a National Championship during one of those campaigns, in 2014-15.
And following Riley’s blueprint is certainly solid advice. The second-year Sooner coach has compiled a 24-3 record, having led OU to two of its four straight Big 12 Championships. Only nine times has a team won four consecutive league titles, and the Sooners own two of those nine.