How Lincoln Riley flipped USC haters into key members of his Trojans teaching employees


Washington State outside receivers coach Dennis Simmons, center, talks to the offense after they warmed up before the start of an NCAA college football game against Oregon State on Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013, at Martin Stadium in Pullman, Wash. Oregon State won 52-24. (AP Photo/Dean Hare)

Washington State exterior receivers coach Dennis Simmons, middle, talks to the offense after they warmed up earlier than a recreation in opposition to Oregon State on Oct. 12, 2013. Simmons adopted Lincoln Riley from Oklahoma to USC. (Dean Hare / Related Press)

Via twenty years of friendship, Dennis Simmons felt he had a fairly good learn on Lincoln Riley. They met at Texas Tech when Riley was 19 and transitioning from quarterback to coach-in-training, supported one another by way of weddings and the early levels of fatherhood, and, after Riley took over for Bob Stoops at Oklahoma, he finally named Simmons his affiliate head coach.

And but, Simmons was not remotely ready for the telephone name he bought from Riley on a Sunday in late November, simply hours after the Sooners misplaced to in-state rival Oklahoma State in Stillwater.

“Not gonna lie, extraordinarily shocked,” Simmons mentioned.

USC? Like, for actual?

“I want you there,” Simmons recalled Riley saying.

“What time and the place?” Simmons responded.

“The connection, friendship and brotherhood that Lincoln and I share,” Simmons defined, “is a really sturdy bond.”

Early the subsequent morning, Simmons left his spouse and two children in Norman and boarded USC’s personal airplane with Riley, defensive coordinator Alex Grinch, energy and conditioning coach Bennie Wylie and director of operations Clarke Stroud to embark on a grand journey.

The 4 former Sooners employees members, shortly labeled as traitors by the Oklahoma fan base, accompanied Riley that Monday to his introductory information convention. They didn’t communicate then, however two months later, a day after the Trojans welcomed 13 new transfers into this system, USC made Simmons, Grinch, and 7 different assistants out there to debate their backgrounds, philosophies and motivations for becoming a member of Riley in L.A.

Grinch bought the identical name from Riley as Simmons and likewise didn’t hesitate.

“You will have the chance to be underneath elite management,” says Grinch, who will stay Riley’s defensive coordinator at USC. “As an assistant coach, that’s very uncommon on this enterprise.”

Grinch and Simmons, who will function assistant head coach and out of doors receivers coach, respectively, later welcomed former Oklahoma assistants Brian Odom (inside linebackers coach and affiliate head coach for protection) and Roy Manning (exterior linebackers and nickel cornerbacks) to the employees. Odom and Manning share a deep loyalty to Grinch, having labored underneath him at Washington State and Oklahoma.

“There’s quite a lot of familiarity in that room, particularly with us three,” Odom mentioned.

For Manning, the selection to come back to USC appeared a bit of unnatural. As a linebacker at Michigan, he had misplaced to the Trojans within the 2004 Rose Bowl. As an assistant coach, he had battled in opposition to USC at Washington State and UCLA.

“I used to be a hater, man,” Manning mentioned.

It’s been a brief period of time, however he already feels he had quite a lot of issues flawed about USC.

“The thought is, after I’ve been at different locations, USC, you’re on this main market, this hustle and bustle, a multitude of a metropolis,” Manning mentioned. “However then you definitely get right here, and it’s actually fairly neat, how this campus sits close to downtown, but it surely’s not a downtown really feel. [You assume students are] hopping on buses, utilizing public transport, however they’re doing fairly the other. It’s skateboards and scooters. I’ve been pleasantly stunned.”

4 USC assistants shall be working underneath Riley for the primary time, together with defensive backs coach Donte Williams, who served because the Trojans’ interim head coach in 2021.

Oklahoma defensive coordinator Alex Grinch before the start of a game against Tulane.

Oklahoma defensive coordinator Alex Grinch earlier than the beginning of a recreation in opposition to Tulane on Sept. 4, 2021, in Norman, Okla. Grinch shall be USC’s new defensive coordinator. (Alonzo Adams / Related Press)

Williams didn’t wish to discuss Thursday about his time main this system, saying, “the previous is the previous.” Grinch mentioned that retaining earlier employees members is a bonus “provided that they’re ok,” and Williams made the lower.

Josh Henson (offensive coordinator and offensive line coach), Shaun Nua (line of defense coach) and Kiel McDonald (operating backs coach) all left distinguished applications on an upward trajectory (Texas A&M, Michigan and Utah, respectively) for USC.

When Henson noticed that Oklahoma offensive line coach Invoice Bedenbaugh was not coming with Riley, he reached out to Grinch to make his curiosity identified.

“I’ve heard what sort of man Coach Riley is, the character he has, the best way he runs his program, the tradition he builds, and I wished to come back be part of that,” Henson mentioned. “It’s enjoyable to be within the room with him moving into his thoughts about offense. Mix that with 76-degree climate, I’m in.”

Final season, Nua coached Michigan defensive finish Aidan Hutchinson to a Heisman Trophy runner-up end and tutored edge rusher David Ojabo towards a first-round projection. However his West Coast roots as a local of American Samoa had been onerous to disclaim, particularly as soon as he spoke with Riley.

“Discuss to Coach Riley for 5 minutes and also you wish to do the whole lot he does,” Nua mentioned. “Not saying it was simple to go away Michigan. However Coach Riley and USC made it simple.”

The chance was so interesting for McDonald that he went by way of the awkwardness of leaving Pac-12 South rival Utah for the Trojans.

“We’ve all grown up watching USC and who they’re and what they will accomplish, the heights they’ve gone to,” McDonald mentioned, “and I simply wish to be part of the employees that hopefully brings that again.”

The ultimate two assistant coaches, Dave Nichol (inside extensive receivers coach and affiliate head coach for offense) and Zach Hanson (tight ends coach), have connections to Riley.

Nichol was on Riley’s offensive employees at East Carolina.

Hanson’s spouse, Annie, was a key member of Riley’s Oklahoma recruiting employees. When Riley requested Annie to hitch him at USC, he advised her she may carry Zach (the offensive line coach at Tulsa) together with her this time.

“Lincoln Riley offers you a name and asks you to be part of that employees,” Zach Hanson mentioned, “it takes you about 10 seconds.”

This story initially appeared in Los Angeles Occasions.



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