By Michael Kinney
Some thought the search for a defensive coordinator would take a long time. But Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley is showing he doesn’t like to wait on things.
In his first major hire since becoming the Sooners head coach, Riley has chosen Alex Grinch to be OU’s new defensive coordinator.
Grinch spent the 2018 season as co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach at Ohio State before Riley plucked him away last week.
The 38-year old Grinch comes to the job with a wealth of credentials. That includes being a three-time nominee and 2017 semifinalist for the Broyles Award (given to the nation’s top assistant coach) while at Washington State.
In his time at WSU and Ohio State, Grinch has shown he can lead a defense that plays alongside a high scoring, fast-paced offense.
“The scheme is designed to let players play fast,” Grinch said. “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.”
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,” 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.”
One thing Grinch has yet to prove in his career that the Sooners sorely need is recruiting in the South. The two biggest decencies on Oklahoma’s defensives have bee, big mobile defensive linemen and tall, rangy, fast cornerbacks. Teams such as Alabama, Clemson and LSU have found a way to grab them all.
If Grinch wants to make a significant change to the Sooner’s defense, he will have to find a way to battle for those same 5-star recruits.
“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,” Riley said. “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.”
One day after the announcement that Grinch was coming to Oklahoma, linebacker coach Tim Kish announced he was retiring. Many believe this is the first dominoes in what could be massive coaching changes.
“After 43 years of coaching I have decided to retire and look forward to a new chapter for myself and my family,” Kish stated on Twitter. “I want to thank Coaches Bob and Mike Stoops for giving me the opportunity to coach here at Oklahoma and Coach Riley for extending that opportunity. I’m truly grateful to have worked with our football staff and administration. Thank you to all my players past and present for all of their hard work and dedication. I’m honored to have traveled on this journey with all of you! I wish nothing but the best for Coach Riley and the Oklahoma football program moving forward.”
Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider