Lincoln Riley is hitting the ground running as he takes the over the reins on the Sooner Schooner. On Wednesday, Oklahoma announced the hire of Ruffin McNeill as defensive line coach.
— Lincoln Riley (@LincolnRiley) June 14, 2017
McNeill is a familiar face for coach Riley. The two coached together at East Carolina, though the relationship has since flipped. At ECU, McNeill was the head coach and Riley served under him as offensive coordinator from 2010 to 2014.
“Personally, I have a great history with him from our time together at Texas Tech and East Carolina,” Riley said in a statement released by the school. “We’re getting an extremely high-quality person and coach. Our team and fans will love the personality and energy he’ll bring to our program.
“Ruffin possesses a distinguished record defensively, and I’m excited to see him work alongside defensive coordinator Mike Stoops and the rest of our staff on that side of the ball. I view the defensive line as one of the most important — if not the most important — position groups on the field, and he’ll be a big benefit to our student-athletes and to our program as a whole.”
In a somewhat bizarre move, East Carolina fired McNeill in 2015 after a disappointing 5-7 season. And yes, 5-7 is not great (just ask Texas), however McNeill was 42-34 as head coach at ECU. The firing has been widely criticized as the Pirates went just 3-9 last season.
McNeill spent last season coaching the defensive line at Virginia, but he also has experience in the Big 12. He spent time at Texas Tech where he eventually worked his way up the coaching ranks on Mike Leach’s staff to defensive coordinator before taking over as interim head coach after Leach was fired by the Red Raiders. He is a guy that understands the Big 12’s spread offenses, and what it takes to slow them down.
“I’ve been at every level and have done it a lot of different ways.” McNeill said. “I’ve been fortunate to work with great people. I’ve had the big-picture view of a head coach, I’ve been a defensive coordinator and I’ve been a special teams coordinator, so I think I have some things I bring to the table. I absolutely love coaching the players. I love that part. I’m excited to do that here. Can’t wait to get on the field, get in the meeting rooms, talk strategy, talk life. That’s what I’ve always been known for; being a hard worker and a team guy. I believe it’s team and family first, last and always. Lincoln and his wife, Caitlin, are family to me. I’ve known him since he was 18 years old when he was a freshman at Texas Tech.
“I believe in working players harder than they’ve worked before, but also loving them more than they’ve ever been loved. That’s my base. And I always am clear with my expectations. ‘Here’s what I expect and why, and here’s what we’re achieving.’ It’s not just the ‘what,’ but it’s also the ‘why’ and the ‘how.’ I treat the players like they’re my sons. Not just my particular group, but the entire team. I’m looking forward to building those relationships here at OU.”