Now that we are about 24 hours removed from Bob Stoops' surprise decision to retire as Oklahoma football coach, stories and tidbits about new Sooners' front man Lincoln Riley are beginning to surface.
Yesterday, I told you how I believed the 33-year-old offensive guru would shatter expectations in Norman. It also got us thinking about the youngest college football coaches in the country.
One angle I hadn't seen covered heavily was how Riley's former players view him. Did they always recognize his greatness? Did his age make it tough for him to earn respect?
I shared some text messages with former East Carolina QB Shane Carden — the career leader in passing yards for the Pirates — and picked his brain about how players view Riley. Here's our conversation.
HERO Sports: Lincoln Riley is often regarded as one of the top up-and-coming young coaches in college football What stood out when he was your offensive coordinator?
Carden: He always asked so much out of everybody. Not just quarterbacks, but receivers, linemen, running backs — every year there was a very high standard that we were all going to meet but we never felt uptight when we were playing. Once it was game time, it was always a mentality of focus on us and what we do, not worrying about who we were playing.
HERO Sports: His age often comes up. Was there ever any issue with him earning the respect of his players?
It never came up with me or that I ever saw. I always felt like he could relate to us better because of his age and when there was time to relax or get to know people I felt it was easier for him because he's younger and can relate.
HERO Sports: Can you think of a moment where he really stood out and you were like "wow, this guy is really special?"
Carden: Looking back now, my senior year we went and played South Carolina and we didn't play our best. We had a shot to beat them but didn't, and everyone was pretty bummed after the game. Coach Riley grabbed myself, Justin Hardy and a couple other guys before we even got off the field and told us the rest of the guys would be looking at us and how we handled this loss. He told us to stay up because the next couple games would define our season.
We went on to beat Virginia Tech and then put up 70 points on North Carolina which helped us get ranked in the first College Football Playoff. I think back to that moment and how he handled it because he knew we could have easily hung out heads and let it affect us negatively.