NORMAN — Oklahoma is nearly three months from releasing Mike Stoops as defensive coordinator.
Coach Lincoln Riley now begins preparations for the new leader to fix the defense, which ranked among college football’s worst this season.
“We’ve gotta have somebody that can help us in building the culture that we want defensively,” Riley said last weekend. “I think a guy that can lead men, and then a guy that can obviously give us a great scheme to help us win, just to continue to improve us as the talent continues to rise on that side, which it is and it’s gonna continue to do so.”
There have been a few names discussed when attaching candidates to OU’s vacant defensive coordinator job. Here is a look at five coaches who are getting attention:
Some names to watch for OU defensive coordinator vacancy:
Pete Golding (Alabama co-DC)
The Crimson Tide’s co-defensive coordinator just completed his first season on Nick Saban’s staff. He was UTSA’s defensive coordinator in 2016-17.
Golding’s last defense: UTSA’s 2017 defense ranked seven in the FBS, allowing just 287.8 yards per game. The Roadrunners finished eighth in scoring defense and 19th in pass efficiency defense. He coaches Alabama’s inside linebackers.
Bert Watts (Fresno State DC)
Watts just spent his inaugural season as the Bulldogs’ defensive coordinator. He served as a defensive coordinator at UC Davis in 2013-16 before serving as Fresno State’s linebackers coach in 2017.
Watts’ last defense: In 14 games, no opponent scored 30 points against the Bulldogs. Fresno State had the nation’s best red-zone defense (Oklahoma was last out of 129 schools), third in scoring defense (14.1 points) and fourth in team passing efficiency defense.
Alex Grinch (Ohio State co-DC)
A former defensive coordinator at Washington State (2015-17), he’s just finished his first season in Columbus. He also was the safeties coach at Missouri (2012-14) and defensive backs coach at Wyoming (2009-11).
Grinch’s defenses: Grinch’s best work came at Washington State under Mike Leach’s high-scoring defense. He turned a defense that ranked 97th nationally prior to his arrival at Washington State to No. 16 in just three seasons. His 2017 team was seventh nationally in pass efficiency defense, forced 28 turnovers and allowed just 11 TD passes.
Tim DeRuyter (Cal DC)
A former head coach at Fresno State (2012-16), he’s had defensive coordinator jobs at Ohio (1995-98), Navy (1999-2000), Ohio (2002-04), Nevada (2005-06), Air Force (2007-09), Texas A&M (2010-11) and has been at Cal since 2017.
DeRuyter’s defenses: Cal opponents averaged just 14.9 points in the final seven weeks, and the Bears lost 10-7 to TCU in the Cheez-It Bowl. Cal was third in total defense and scoring defense in the Pac-12.
Ruffin McNeill (OU interim DC)
Lincoln Riley’s top confidante, McNeill was the Sooners’ interim defensive coordinator for the final eight games this season. He’s been a defensive coordinator at Appalachian State (1993-96), UNLV (1997-98), Fresno State (1999) and Texas Tech (2008-09).
McNeill’s defenses: McNeill took over for fired Mike Stoops after the mid-season loss to Texas. A veteran coach, he would bring continuity to the program. That’s good for player relationships, but it may not be a payoff after the way OU finished defensively (40 points allowed in five of its last eight games).