Lincoln Riley’s dismissal of DC Mike Stoops a major Big 12 shakeup

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The biggest bombshell of the Big 12 season was lobbed Sunday night when Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley fired longtime defensive coordinator Mike Stoops.

The brother of former Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops was axed following a 48-45 loss to arch-rival Texas, but it was more than a single game that set off alarms about the Sooners defense.

OU is ranked eighth in the Big 12 in total defense and ninth in passing defense. The Sooners are particularly abysmal on third-down defense: 98th in the country while allowing a 42.4 percent conversion rate.

“It was more of a gut feeling that this was the appropriate response right now,” Riley said. “More than anything, we needed a different voice in that room, and in my gut in the moment, that’s what we needed right now.”

Stoops, who was in his second stint as Oklahoma’s DC, rejoined the program in 2012 after eight years as Arizona’s head coach. His interim replacement is Ruffin McNeill, who isn’t exactly new to this type of thing.

McNeill took over as Texas Tech’s defensive coordinator in the middle of the 2007 season. He also became the Red Raiders interim head coach for the 2009 Alamo Bowl following Mike Leach’s dismissal. Riley was on that 2009 staff, so he knows what McNeill can do on the fly. Removing his predecessor’s brother for a familiar face also marks a major moment in molding the program in his own image.

“You never want to go through these situations, but it helps having been through one,” Riley said. “The setup here is better. The opportunities are good for us to make a run that we expect to make. I know we have the right people in that room to get it done.”

Bob Diaco is now among the people in the room. The eccentric former UConn head coach and Notre Dame defensive coordinator replaces McNeil as OU’s outside linebackers coach. He had been serving on the staff as an off-field defensive analyst.

“If I didn’t feel like we had the firepower in that room to get this done, I wouldn’t have made that decision,” Riley said. “Ruffin is certainly a big part of that, and getting Coach Diaco on the field as well.”

Riley stayed mum on whether he consulted Bob Stoops about the move.

“Because of the nature of mine and Bob’s relationship, I don’t feel comfortable saying either way,” Riley said.

No updates on Tonkery, Bush

West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen had no updates on injured linebacker Dylan Tonkery or wide receiver Tevin Bush.

Per defensive coordinator Tony Gibson, Tonkery was “banged up” against Kansas and did not play in the fourth quarter. Bush took a hard hit to the lower leg after an impressive catch and run in the second quarter and never returned. Both players remained in pads on the sideline, which is typically a positive sign.

“We haven’t practiced yet. That’s usually a Tuesday situation,” Holgorsen said. “I don’t have anything to report at this time.”

Thursday Night Lights

Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury is a big fan of the Big 12’s Thursday night games. The Red Raiders kick off the league’s Thursday night slate against TCU this week.

“I think they’re good for everybody’s program to have all eyes on you,” Kingsbury said. “The Big 12 sets it up in a good way so you have no game the week before, and it gives you Friday and Saturday off going into the next week.”

West Virginia’s turn under the lights comes against Baylor on Oct. 25.

Bowman back

Texas Tech quarterback Alan Bowman, who suffered a partially collapsed lung against West Virginia, is back at practice for the Red Raiders. If he’s cleared for contact, he will play against TCU. If not, the Red Raiders will probably turn to opening game starter McLane Carter. Jett Duffey, who sparked the Red Raiders off the bench against West Virginia, is also available.

NFL success no surprise

TCU coach Gary Patterson is not surprised to see a pair of former Big 12 quarterbacks tearing up the NFL.

Former Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes has the Kansas City Chiefs off to a 5-0 start, while former Texas Tech/Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield has led the Cleveland Browns to more wins this season (two) than they had in the previous two seasons combined.

“I haven’t been surprised that he or Baker have had this success early. They play at a high level. They have confidence in themselves,” Patterson said. “My definition of a good player is one who makes everyone else on the field better.”

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