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Lincoln Riley hires former Oklahoma TE

Joe Jon Finley, who played at OU with RB coach DeMarco Murray, will coach Sooner tight ends and H-backs as associate head coach for offense

Lincoln Riley got his man.

Replacing Shane Beamer was not going to be an easy task, but Riley did it by reaching into Oklahoma's past and in doing so, landed a hot up-and-coming young coach.

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Former Sooner and NFL tight end Joe Jon Finley has been hired as associate head coach for offense. He'll coach OU tight ends and H-backs and will oversee various special teams.

Back in Norman after climbing the coaching ranks for the past five seasons, Finley is reunited with former Sooner running back DeMarco Murray. On Murray's famous 65-yard touchdown run against Texas in 2007, it was Finley he hurdled over to break the game open.

"Oklahoma's my alma mater, it's where I met my wife and where I started my coaching career, so obviously it's a special place to my family," Finley said in an OU statement. "I look forward to working with great coaches, great players and great support from Sooner Nation. I can't thank (athletic director Joe Castiglione) and coach Riley enough for bringing me back home. Boomer Sooner!"

Joe Jon Finley at Ole Miss

Joe Jon Finley at Ole Miss

Finley, who turns 36 on Jan. 30, graduated from OU in 2008, played in the NFL for parts of five seasons with the San Francisco 49ers (2008-10), Detroit Lions (2010-11) and Carolina Panthers (2012).

He got into coaching as the offensive line coach at Los Fresnos (TX) High School in 2011, then spent 2012-13 at Oklahoma as an offensive graduate assistant under Bob Stoops.

Finley coached offensive line and coordinated strength and conditioning at Los Fresnos in 2014, then spent 2015 as assistant director of football operations and offensive quality control analyst at Baylor. 

Finley's first full-time coaching gig came at Missouri in 2016, when he was hired to coach Mizzou tight ends (2016-18). He then took on tight ends at Texas A&M (2019) and Ole Miss (2020).

"We're excited to welcome Joe Jon and his family back to Norman," Riley said in an OU statement. "He obviously had a great playing career and has established himself as one of the top tight end coaches in the country. He's had great experience working for several tremendous programs and I know he's going to bring a lot to ours. We're thrilled to welcome him back and can't wait for him to get started."

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The 6-foot-6, 210-pound Finley joined the Sooners as a 3-star athlete prospect out of Arlington, TX, in the 2003 class. He played tight end as a sophomore, then moved to quarterback for his junior and senior years at Arlington High School. SuperPrep ranked Finley as the No. 24 quarterback in the nation. He also ran hurdles in high school.

But at Oklahoma, Finley redshirted his first year and added 20 pounds of muscle, then grew into an immediate contributor at tight end.

He increased his offensive output every year at OU, catching seven passes for 94 yards and a touchdown as a redshirt freshmen, 13 passes for 150 yards and two TDs as a sophomore, 19 passes for 241 yards and three TDs as a junior and 23 passes for 290 yards and four TDs as a senior.

His coaching career has had a similar upward trajectory.

At Ole Miss last season, Finley was passing game coordinator and tight ends coach and helped the Rebels to one of the most prodigious offensive seasons in the history of the program. Ole Miss ranked No. 3 nationally in total offense (555.5 ypg), No. 5 in pass efficiency rating (178.7), No. 7 in passing offense (344.9 ypg), No. 10 in yards per play (7.0), No. 14 in scoring offense (39.2 ppg) and No. 26 in rushing offense (210.6 ypg).

Among Finley's pupils, tight end Kenny Yeboah caught 27 passes for 524 yards and six touchdowns in eight games, and averaged an SEC-leading 19.4 yards per catch.

His tight ends at Texas A&M included Freshman All-American Jalen Wydermyer, who caught 32 passes for 447 yards and a team-leading six TD catches.

Finley's Missouri tight ends were just as good: Albert Okwuegbunam caught 43 passes for 466 yards and six touchdowns, was a Mackey Award finalist and became a fourth-round NFL Draft pick by  Denver in 2020. During his freshman season, Okwuegbunam earned second-team All-SEC and SEC All-Freshman Team honors after leading all FBS tight ends with 11 TD catches.

Two other Missouri tight ends — Sean Culkin (Baltimore Ravens) and Kendall Blanton (Los Angeles Rams) — are in the NFL after playing for Finley.

At OU, Finley was a key player in three Big 12 championships (2004, 2006, 2007), earned All-Big 12 honorable mention as both a junior and senior, and finished his career with 62 catches, 775 receiving yards — both seventh in school history among tight ends — and 10 touchdown grabs in 50 games.

Finley played high school football for his dad, Mickey, from 1999-2002, throwing for 1,626 yards and 12 touchdowns and running for 897 yards and nine touchdowns as a senior quarterback.

Finley and his wife, Caylee, have three daughters (Blakely, Scout and Collier) and a son (Knox).