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Oklahoma Announces Defensive Coaching Staff Changes

Lincoln Riley officially announces that defensive coordinator Mike Stoops is out at Oklahoma.

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Late Sunday night, The Football Brainiacs broke the news that Oklahoma and defensive coordinator Mike Stoops have parted ways. This morning, that news has become official as Lincoln Riley announced Mike Stoops’ departure from the program.

“I have great respect for Mike,” said Riley. “He’s a quality football coach, great man and a close friend. It became time for a change in our program and that happens sometimes in football, but we cannot lose sight of the accomplishments Mike had at Oklahoma. He was responsible for a lot of success and deserves the gratitude of everyone associated with Sooner football, not only for his role in the winning, but for coaching with integrity.”

Stoops was hired on as defensive coordinator in 1999, and helped lead Oklahoma to a National Championship in 2000. He left Oklahoma to take over as head coach at Arizona in 2004, but returned to the Sooners in 2012. However, the defense never seemed to have the same spark it had in Stoops’ first stint as most of the Big 12 had moved to a spread-heavy, uptempo scheme.

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According to John Hoover with 107.7 The Franchise though, the decision to let Stoops go may not have been coach Riley’s.

Riley might not have wanted to pull the trigger, but it looks like Stoops acknowledged that he wasn’t getting the job done. According to Dean Blevins with OKC-KWTV News 9, Stoops apparently offered to resign following the loss to the Longhorns, but Riley wasn’t going to accept a rash decision.

Riley also announced who will take over the defense as conflicting reports called for Ruffin McNeill and Bob Diaco to be the interim defensive coordinator. It looks like McNeill won out as he will move from assistant head coach and defensive tackles coach to defensive coordinator, while Diaco will be promoted from his role of defensive analyst to outside linebackers coach. Both coaches have extensive experience at defensive coordinator.

McNeill was brought onto the Sooner’s staff as assistant head coach and defensive tackles coach before the 2017 season. The defensive-minded coach has a long resume behind him. In 2000, he was brought on at Texas Tech as the Red Raider’s linebackers coach. He worked his way up the coaching ladder, and in 2009 he took over as interim head coach for the Red Raider’s bowl game after Mike Leach was suspended. In 2010, he took over at East Carolina, but was let go after going 5-7 in 2015. He went on to become an assistant head coach and defensive line coach at Virginia for the 2016 season, before being hired at Oklahoma.

“Ruffin has an impressive resume,” Riley said. “That’s why I wanted him on our staff in the first place. I have confidence in his knowledge and leadership. Bob has a lot of experience in very good programs and also has a list of accomplishments that will help him step in and make an immediate impact. We are fortunate to have these men in our program. They’ll be ready to get to work in new roles right away.”

Diaco has been coaching since 1996 when he was hired as a graduate assistant at Iowa. In 2009, he was hired as defensive coordinator under Brian Kelly at Cincinnati. Diaco later followed Kelly to Notre Dame, where he was the defensive coordinator for the Fighting Irish until he was named the head coach at Connecticut at the end of the 2013 season. The Irish were second in points allowed per game in 2012 under Diaco’s leadership. Unfortunately, Diaco was let go at UConn after a disappointing 2016 season.

In 2017, Mike Riley hired Diaco to be Nebraska’s defensive coordinator, but was subsequently fired at the end of the season when Nebraska fired Riley and the rest of the coaching staff. For what it’s worth, the Huskers ranked 100th in total defense last season, although he was coaching up a bunch of players he inherited, and didn’t have an opportunity to recruit his own talent. It’s fair to say, the talent at Oklahoma is a bit better.

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