NORMAN Alex Grinch, who spent the 2018 season as co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach for Ohio State’s 13-1 squad, was hired as Oklahoma’s defensive coordinator on Friday, OU head coach Lincoln Riley announced.
A three-time nominee and 2017 semifinalist for the Broyles Award (given to the nation’s top assistant coach), Grinch is regarded as one of the game’s best young defensive minds. The 38-year-old served the 2015-17 seasons as Washington State’s defensive coordinator and secondary coach, leading an extraordinary turnaround for head coach Mike Leach’s defense.
In 2014, the year before Grinch’s arrival at Washington State, the Cougars ranked 99th nationally in total defense (442.3 ypg), 127th in pass defense (296.6 ypg) and 127th in turnovers gained (8). In 2017, he presided over a WSU unit that ranked 16th in total defense (323.3 ypg), ninth in passing defense (170.9 ypg) and ninth in turnovers gained (28). Washington State also allowed only 11 touchdown passes in 2017, tied for fifth-fewest in the country. And its 103 tackles for loss were tied for eighth-fewest nationally.
“Alex has an outstanding track record as a defensive coach and a defensive coordinator,” said Riley, who has led the Sooners to Big 12 titles and College Football Playoff appearances in each of his two years as head coach. “He’s been one of the most sought-after guys in the country here the last couple of years, especially for the work that he did at Washington State. Taking that defense where he did in a short amount of time is one of the best coaching jobs in the country over the last several years.
“Alex has an outstanding track record as a defensive coach and a defensive coordinator. He’s been one of the most sought-after guys in the country here the last couple of years.”
– Lincoln Riley
“I have a lot of mutual contacts and people I trust in the business who have worked with Alex, and they all speak highly of his ability to not only be one of the best schematically, but also a guy who will help build the culture that we want and expect here at Oklahoma on the defensive side.”
Riley also praised Grinch’s recruiting ability.
“He’s a very diligent and very, very involved recruiter. His specialty has been the secondary, but he’ll certainly be involved in all aspects of our defensive recruiting. He’s a personable guy and has an outstanding track record in that area. It’s something he’s very invested in and he fits with the standard that we’ve created here. Recruiting is going to be at the forefront of everything we do. Alex certainly agrees with that and fits in perfectly.”
Grinch indicated that the chance to join the Oklahoma program was simply too good to pass up.
“This is a unique opportunity at one of the premier institutions under elite leadership,” said Grinch. “Oklahoma is in the top one percent. There’s no faking it in this business. You’re either it or you’re not. Oklahoma is one of those programs.”
Grinch also explained his ties to Riley and OU’s style of play.
“Coach Riley and I have a number of mutual friends,” he said. “I’m definitely in the ‘air raid’ tree, just on the defensive side of the ball. I’m not sure there’s a better fit for an offense and a defense. I believe this is what Coach Riley is looking for. I also believe what we do works.”
Grinch, who is from Grove City, Ohio, watched his Washington State defensive units improve in points allowed in three consecutive years. After the Cougars forced just eight turnovers the year before he arrived, Grinch presided over defenses that forced 24, 23 and 28 the next three seasons, respectively.
A full-time collegiate coach for 14 seasons, and for 16 when counting two years as a defensive graduate assistant at Missouri, Grinch has coached in the secondary at all five of his full-time coaching stops. He presided over safeties at Ohio State (2018), defensive backs at Washington State (2015-17), safeties at Missouri (2012-14), defensive backs at Wyoming (2009-11) and cornerbacks at New Hampshire (2005-08).
Grinch also has recruiting coordinator experience, serving in that role for a combined five years at Wyoming and New Hampshire.
Asked to detail the defensive scheme he likes to employ, Grinch was clear.
“The scheme is designed to let players play fast,” he explained. “It’s a downhill approach. We work into gaps in our front and speed is our calling card. Today’s offenses are built on space and speed. You have to combat that with speed of your own. With speed on defense, it affords you the opportunity to run a multiplicity of coverages and fronts.”
Grinch also expressed that he is excited to join the Big 12 Conference, which owns the best bowl record among Power Five leagues over the last three seasons at 13-8 (.619).
“I have great respect for the Big 12,” said Grinch. “The offenses are explosive. To a degree, that same approach has become America’s offense. Offenses now feature run-pass options combined with tempo. That’s the challenge we face and we look forward to meeting it.”
Grinch helped Missouri to a 23-5 record over the 2013 and 2014 seasons, two SEC East Division titles, a Citrus Bowl victory over Minnesota in 2013 and a Cotton Bowl win over Oklahoma State in 2014. His safeties played a key role in the Tigers’ defensive improvement in 2014, as they combined to grab six of the team’s 12 interceptions on the year. Strong safety Braylon Webb recorded a team-high four picks and earned second-team All-SEC honors.
“The scheme is designed to let players play fast. Today’s offenses are built on space and speed. You have to combat that with speed of your own.”
– Alex Grinch
In Grinch’s final year at Wyoming, three of his Cowboy defensive backs earned postseason honors. Wyoming concluded the 2011 regular season ranked No. 34 in the nation in pass defense (202.2 ypg) and ranked No. 1 in the Mountain West and tied for No. 5 nationally in turnovers gained (31).
Two of Grinch’s Wyoming safeties Chris Prosinski and Tashaun Gipson went on to play in the NFL. Prosinski was a fourth-round selection by Jacksonville in 2011 and remained in the league until 2017. Gipson, who is with the Jaguars, spent four seasons with Cleveland, earning a Pro Bowl selection in 2014 with the Cleveland Browns. He has started 90 of his 98 career games and has 20 interceptions.
In his first two seasons at New Hampshire, Grinch coached cornerbacks before being promoted to secondary coach and recruiting coordinator before the 2007 season. The Wildcats reached the FCS playoffs all four seasons Grinch was on staff, made three quarterfinals appearances and earned a No. 7 ranking in the final 2008 FCS Coaches Poll. He coached four players to a total of six all-conference honors, including cornerback Corey Graham, who was a fifth-round pick of the Chicago Bears in the 2007 NFL Draft and was a 2012 NFL Pro Bowl selection.
Prior to New Hampshire, Grinch was the defensive graduate assistant coach at Missouri for the 2003 and 2004 campaigns, and was an MU administrative graduate assistant during the 2002 season.
As a player from 1998-2001, his University of Mount Union teams went 54-1 and earned three NCAA Division III championships (1998, 2000 and 2001). They also won four consecutive Ohio Athletic Conference titles. As a senior in 2001, Grinch was a third-team All-America safety by D3football.com while earning first-team academic all-conference honors.
Combining his years as a player and as a full-time assistant coach, Grinch’s teams have combined for a 176-61 (.730) record, including winning marks at New Hampshire (37-14), Missouri (28-12), Washington State (26-13) and Ohio State (13-1).
Grinch was a Mount Union teammate of Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell and Toledo head coach Jason Candle.
Grinch, who is the nephew of former Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel, graduated from Mount Union in 2002 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in sports management. He received his master’s degree in educational leadership from Missouri in 2004. He and his wife, the former Rebecca Blaser, are the parents of a son, Tyler, and a daughter, Corbi.
Grinch spent the past season as co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach at Ohio State