Press Conference: Lincoln Riley addresses NFL speculation

There’s really nothing he can say to quiet the chatter, but Riley did answer some questions.

In a dominating performance on both sides of the ball for the Oklahoma Sooners against the Kansas State Wildcats, the defense once again looked noticeably stronger, especially up front. Lincoln Riley made sure to acknowledge that.

Now the team turns the page to “Championship November”, which has been kind to the Sooners in recent years. The first test in what should be the most challenging month of the season comes on the road in Lubbock. Texas Tech (5-3, 3-2 in Big 12) is coming off a heartbreaking loss to Iowa State in Ames, while the Sooners have cruised to back-to-back blowout victories. Red Raiders head coach Kliff Kingsbury came into the season on the proverbial hot-seat, but has likely bought himself a bit more time with a surprisingly solid season through the first two-thirds of the 2018 campaign.

Lincoln Riley addressed questions surrounding his name and the NFL, the challenges that await his team this week and more during Monday’s presser.

Riley on Brendan Radley-Hiles’ injury

In the first quarter last Saturday, Bookie laid the lumber on a Kansas State tight end in a booming collision that left both players shaken up. The Sooners’ true freshman nickelback was sidelined for the remainder of the game, although it’s unclear how much that was due to the injury and how much that was due to the score of the game. Riley provided an update to the former five-star’s health.

“It’s not a long-term deal. What that means for this week or the coming weeks, I don’t know yet. We haven’t had them in. Yesterday was their day off, so we’ll see how he does here and how he responds to rehab throughout the week.”

Riley on possibly coaching in the NFL

With the Cleveland Browns firing head coach Hue Jackson on Monday, the speculation and takes involving Riley’s name and the NFL are starting to fly off the shelves. Riley was asked if he ever thinks about coaching in the pros, and he also spoke about the amount of interest he has in eventually coaching at the next level.

“You sit here and answer these questions and I always want to be truthful. The truth is, for me, is I love Oklahoma. I love coaching here. I love college football. I certainly don’t have that itch right now, don’t know that I ever will. I’m never going to be a guy that’s going to stand up here and say ‘no way, no how will any of these things ever happen’. I don’t know that, but I know right now I could care less about the NFL. We’re trying to win this game and trying to make a run that we all think we have in us right now.”

This obviously isn’t going to quiet the speculation (nor will anything, really), and people are already trying to read into the “right now” quotes, but I don’t get the impression that he’s trying to jump to the Cleveland Browns of all franchises — Baker or no. With Riley being a Texas native, the Dallas Cowboys would perhaps be another story, but he might not be eager to be a part of the Jerry/Stephen Jones operation. However, the allure of that gig — the potential monetary allure, in particular — shouldn’t be completely ignored.

Having said all of this, Jerry kind of seems dead-set on riding Jason Garrett until the wheels fall off, and it doesn’t seem like he’s ready to acknowledge that they already have. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Riley on not redshirting Caleb Kelly

Junior linebacker Caleb Kelly has surpassed the four-game redshirt threshold for the season, even though he hasn’t been a starter. Riley talked about what went into the decision to not redshirt Kelly and save a year of his eligibility.

“It was mostly (Kelly’s) decision. There were certainly opportunities both defensively and special teams-wise. I continued to talk with him, he’s ready to play. He’s been improving at inside-linebacker. I think he’ll continue to have a chance to have a bigger and bigger role there going forward. He’s done a nice job for us on special teams. It wasn’t super dramatic or anything like that. Just got to a point where yeah, we’re going to play.”

Riley on Texas Tech’s improved defense

In recent years, the Red Raiders have been known for fielding some of the Big 12’s best offenses, but the defense has been at or near the bottom of the conference for some time. This season, Texas Tech has shown marked improvement on D, and Riley knows his offense will have to continue its strong play in order to secure the road win.

“They’re playing more 11-man ball, getting around the football. They’re creating a lot of negative plays. You just see a lot of players out there that don’t look like the same player they did two or three years ago. Guys have just played a ton of ball together. They’re experienced, you can tell they kind of know where each other’s going to be. They’re physical, they’re playing excited, so those guys have done a great job over there as far as taking the steps they needed to take.”

Riley on his first game coaching in Lubbock

In 2016, Lincoln Riley coached his first game in Lubbock from the visitor’s sideline. That game happened to be the epic 66-59 shootout between Baker Mayfield and Patrick Mahomes. This season will be his first game back as a head coach. Riley reflected on what that night was like after years of growing up as a player and a coach at Texas Tech.

“It was really unique. It was one of the more unique feelings I’ve ever had in a game, just coming in that other tunnel. So much history there, so many good memories there, it was unique. Then on top of it the game was one of the wildest ones ever. So there were some mixed emotions for sure, and probably will be in this one as well, but you enjoy ones like this where there’s a little storyline behind it, some history behind it, two good teams going at it, good atmosphere, Saturday night, ABC. It’s what it’s all about.”

Full press conference links

Kenneth Murray

Oklahoma team captain and starting MIKE linebacker Kenneth Murray caught up with the media and spoke in length about Ruffin McNeill’s impact on the defense since taking over as the interim DC. A mantra that the players are playing with is ‘FIDO’, or ‘forget it and drive on’.

Lincoln Riley

In a day and age where patience can be hard to come by in the world of college football, Kyler Murray has exhibited that in spades since he first arrived in Norman over two years ago. Riley talked about what that level of patience has done for the Heisman Trophy candidate’s development.

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