The number of former Sooner players on the current Oklahoma coaching staff grew again this offseason.
In 2019, the arrival of defensive coordinator Alex Grinch brought former OU linebacker Brian Odom back into the fold.
A member of the 2000 National Championship team, Odom joined Cale Gundy as the only other coach at the time who donned the crimson and cream on the gridiron.
Yet over the past two offseasons, Lincoln Riley has continued to add to those exclusive ranks.
Ahead of the 2020 season, all-time touchdown leader DeMarco Murray was hired as the Sooners running back coach, and now this year Murray’s former teammate Joe Jon Finley entered the fold as the tight end/H-backs coach.
“It's great to have Joe Jon. Great friend of mine,” Murray said in a Zoom press conference on Thursday. “We were close when we played and obviously we've always kept in contact.”
They were OU teammates in 2006 and 2007, but since Murray redshirted as a freshman, they only played the ‘07 season together.
Finley said it’s been an incredible journey to enter the coaching ranks with his former teammates, as they continue to lean on each other to this day.
“Those guys are extremely special to me just because I wouldn’t be here without those guys,” he said. “We still communicate all the time. We lean on each other, we pick each other’s brains.
“Just having that support staff where if you have a question regarding anything regarding football – whether it’s, I’m moving houses, I’m moving to a new offense, I’m around a different group of coaches who have a different personality – and how to handle that.”
Ever the teammate, Murray said Finley, who has a few years coaching experience on the former running back, still helps Murray to this day behind the scenes.
“He's still helping me. He's had a couple more years on this coaching deal than me,” Murray said. “He's constantly bringing in new ideas from the run game, for the pass game, the blocking game, whatever it is. So it's great to have him on staff. Obviously great to have another Sooner on staff that kinda knows this place and the tradition behind it and what we're looking for.
“He's a great addition to our staff and our offensive staff in general with our personalities, so it's gonna be great for us.”
Riley hailed the work Finley has done in the tight end/H-back room already this spring, preaching to the value of Finley’s firsthand experience playing the position throughout his career.
“Joe Jon’s experience having played the position in different offenses, doing it at the NFL level, doing it here at Oklahoma, it certainly it’s been great for those guys,” Riley said. “There’s just, when you have played a position for as long as he has there’s just little things that you pick up on as a player that are hard to replicate if you haven’t played the position.
“There’s just some of those little things you see with Joe Jon that you can tell, he’s been in that tight end room for a long time and he’s taken a lot of snaps and a lot of meetings and just a lot of time invested at it over the years so I think that’ll benefit all three of our tight ends.”
As Murray and Finley grow yet again within the OU program, the fanbase will surely be rooting once more for their success.