NORMAN, Okla. — It’s been a crazy offseason already in the first three-plus weeks since the Sooners fell 45-34 to the Alabama Crimson Tide in the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Capital One Orange Bowl. There’s the Kyler Murray saga, which ultimately resulted in the Heisman Trophy winner declaring for the NFL Draft. There’s Jalen Hurts’ transfer. There’s the nation’s top-ranked receiver jumping aboard the 2019 class in Jadon Haselwood. And, oh, then there’s all the defensive staff changes.
Inside linebackers coach Tim Kish retired, while defensive backs coach Kerry Cooks left for the secondary job at Texas Tech. Head coach Lincoln Riley, too, had a defensive coordinator position to fill, where he gave the nod to Alex Grinch, by way of Ohio State. Missouri’s Brian Odom, a former OU player, and Roy Manning, were hired in Kish and Cooks’ vacant spots. That completes the changes as far as on-field coaching is concerned.
“Yeah, as far as the defensive staff, Alex is going to coach our safeties,” Riley said. “Roy will coach the corners. Brian Odom will coach the inside linebackers. Ruffin McNeill will coach the outside linebackers. Calvin Thibodeaux will coach the defensive line.
“We still have some off-the-field positions, G.A. positions, all that, that we’re in the process of. Not ready to make announcements on that yet, but the full-time on field staff is set, yes.”
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Riley introduced all three over the weekend, starting with Grinch. The 38-year-old Grove City, Ohio, native spent the last year the Ohio State Buckeyes. Before that, he directed the Washington State Cougars’ defense, which produced 24, 23 and 28 turnovers in 2015, 2016 and 2017, respectively.
“In my mind as I went through this process and vetted a lot of outstanding candidates, I mean, I really had no indecision on this,” Riley said. “This was honestly a pretty easy decision for me on a number of different levels. One, most importantly, a lot of guys that I trust in the business have had a chance to work with Coach Grinch, seen up close and personal the kind of man he is, the kind of family he has, the impact that he has been able to have on defensive players, defensive units in a short amount of time, some of the changes, especially going back to his career at Washington State. You can just see the immediate success that happened when he took over defensively.
“And then I’ve just always admired from afar the way that his group’s played. Love what they do schematically, but more important than that mentality that he’s instilled in these players, and it’s something that we very much believe in here.”
Manning, of course, was part of Grinch’s staff at Washington State. Last year, with the UCLA Bruins, he directed linebacker Keisean Lucier-South to 11.5 tackles for loss and four sacks.
Odom, too, served on Grinch’s staff as a defensive quality control assistant in 2015-16. He then worked one year with the Tigers, and also was an associate director of performance enhancement at Arizona under then-head coach Mike Stoops from 2005-11 and at Houston from 2012-14.