Lincoln Riley solidifies he’s the ultimate quarterback guru

Lincoln Riley solidifies he’s the ultimate quarterback guru

It’s no secret that in the past six seasons under his watch, three quarterbacks have become Heisman Trophy winners.

When Caleb Williams pulled up the hardware last Saturday, it was a monumental feat for the gunslinger and his head coach. Lincoln Riley is only 39 years old, but a master of the x’s and o’s who has notches in his belt that are second to none.

His brilliant offensive spirit reflects being a protégé of the late Mike Leach and his Air Raid. A scheme that has evolved today’s game in terms of forward pass and explosive plays. Considering that Riley was a former quarterback and assistant to Leach at Texas Tech, he absorbed everything the Wizard had taught him and put his own stamp on it.

Though he worked with the wide receivers at his alma mater, Riley later became a quarterback whisperer en route to becoming a head coach. And his track record with gunslingers is notable, dating back to his days as offensive coordinator in East Carolina.

Dominique Davis threw for 7,192 yards and 62 touchdowns in two seasons under Riley’s stewardship. Shane Carden broke school records for a season by passing in Riley’s final two years at Pirates Yards. The Texas native was so impressive in his first two seasons in Oklahoma as offensive coordinator that he won the Frank Broyles Award for the nation’s top assistant coach.

Bob Stoops abruptly retired shortly thereafter, making Riley the youngest-ever head coach of the Power Five, and he’s never looked back. He led the Sooners to a Big 12 title, a college football playoff berth, and Baker Mayfield won the Heisman in his first season as head coach. Riley showed his success and brilliant work with quarterbacks was no fluke as Oklahoma won two straight Big 12 titles, a second straight playoff berth and Kyler Murray took home the Heisman.

Jalen Hurts moved to Oklahoma from Alabama and, under Riley’s guidance, became a Big 12 champion and a Heisman finalist. Not to mention, Riley led the Sooners to four Big 12 titles and three playoff appearances in five seasons. However, the way he turned USC overnight made his legacy legendary.

The Trojans went from a 4-8 record in 2021 to an 11-2 campaign that saw Riley patrol the sidelines. That’s because he rounded up a variety of stud players from the transfer portal, including Williams, and used their talents in the Pac-12. Riley not only led USC to an appearance in the Pac-12 championship game, but also made Williams the school’s eighth Heisman Trophy winner.

Williams has 4,075 yards through the air, is currently first in the FBS with 37 touchdown throws, and leads the conference in passing efficiency. And that’s a testament to how Riley made him the best gunslinger in the country.

Despite losing a Pac-12 title and a playoff spot this fall, Riley still showed the nation that he is an elite coach who is worth every penny of the lucrative contract USC signed him. Riley’s critics will say he needs to focus more on the defensive side of the ball to reach the promised land, but they can’t deny that he’s deployed some of the best offense in the country in recent seasons. And he’s got a trophy case full of hardware to show for it.

Riley has an opportunity to lead USC to 12 wins for the first time since 2008 when he wins against Tulane in the Cotton Bowl. And that would build a lot of hype and skyrocket expectations for the 2023 season. Regardless of what turns out, Riley has proven he can recruit quarterbacks and mold them into Heisman winners, and that will make every top signal caller in the country want to play for him.

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