Lincoln Riley's Innovation Keeps Him at the Forefront of College Football

Former NFL and college football head coach and current ESPN and Sports Illustrated analyst Jim Mora Jr. weighs in on how Lincoln Riley continues to stay on the cutting edge of offensive innovation.
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Lincoln Riley’s offense has long been the envy of college football.

But once you reach the top, you can’t afford to rest on your laurels.

Oklahoma has been able to stay near the top of due to Riley’s constant ability to take his already successful offense and continue to innovate.

Former NFL and college football head coach and current analyst for ESPN and Sports Illustrated Jim Mora Jr. told SI Sooners that Riley does a great job of continuing to push the envelope.

“He’s able to push the boundaries and he’s not afraid to push the boundaries,” Mora said.

After coaching Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray to Heisman Trophies, Spencer Rattler is primed to chase the honor in 2021

After coaching Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray to Heisman Trophies, Spencer Rattler is primed to chase the honor in 2021

Staying on the cutting edge when game planning requires hours and hours of work all throughout the season, Mora said.

“You have to study, it takes a lot of work,” he said. “It’s having the humbleness to be able to go study other teams at different levels of play. Which means you’re gonna turn on film of NFL teams and see what’s successful at the NFL level. You’re gonna turn on film of Division 1 teams that are having success on offense.

“You’re gonna dip all the way down into D3 if there’s a team that’s doing something innovative and catching your eye, then you’re gonna put those concepts into your offense with your twist on them.”

Even though every coach is always looking for the next new thing to give their team an edge, Mora said Riley is built just a little bit different than most.

“He gets in the meeting room and probably when he looks up at the white board and he’s starting to put a game plan together, he’s probably like a scientist,” he said. “He’s looking at things different than a lot of us.”

But imagining up offensive schemes is just half the battle.

Coaches have to be able to convey their ideas clearly to their players, or it won’t matter how creative they can be in the classroom.

Lincoln Riley's offenses have helped power the Sooners to six straight Big 12 Championships and four College Football Playoff berths 

Lincoln Riley's offenses have helped power the Sooners to six straight Big 12 Championships and four College Football Playoff berths 

“He’s probably a pretty innovative teacher as well, because these college players don’t have the time that NFL players have to digest a game plan or digest a scheme,” Mora said. “I would say that beyond Lincoln just being incredibly creative as an offensive scheme guy, he also has a method of teaching where his players can understand quickly what he’s asking them to do.”

After rewriting the offensive record books with Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray at the helm, Riley is again prepping to return to the College Football Playoff with an explosive offense led by standout quarterback Spencer Rattler.

Another year will afford Riley more opportunities to continue to show why he’s one of the most creative minds in all of football, and Riley’s drive to be the best continues to serve him on the field.

“It’s never just saying we’ve got it,” Mora said. “It’s always trying to strive to go to the next level.”