Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley held a conference call Tuesday afternoon and mostly fielded questions about the program in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
Among the topics discussed were now-Ohio State running back Trey Sermon, the 2020 season potentially being canceled or played without fans in the stands, the setbacks of not having spring football and more.
Here’s what the coach had to say:
Fate of the 2020 season
Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby announced on March 26 that a decision will be made in the next 60-90 days on whether or not the 2020 football season will be canceled.
For Riley, a possibility like that hasn’t sunk in yet.
“I definitely haven’t considered (a 2020 cancellation),” Riley said, “Just because I think that’s so far out in front right now. I just don’t know that it’s going to do me or us any good. There’s still just so many unknowns. We’ve got a plan in terms of if it does happen. If we do have our season, we understand that there very well may be some type of adjustments that we may have to abide by. None of us knows exactly what it looks like right now, that’s kind of pure speculation. I think it’s pretty clear that there very well could (be a limit on) the amount of people that participate, watch, all of that. I think that’s very possible.”
Big 12 guidelines for pandemic precaution
The Big 12 announced Monday a set of rules during coronavirus precautions, with a limit of two hours of mandatory meetings between coaches and players per week, along with the rule that live virtual workouts are prohibited.
“I’m still kind of wondering how we settled on the two hours,” Riley said. “We’re in a period right now, football wise, where we’re supposed to have 20 hours a week with our guys and we get that that’s not feasible. We understand that. I think with the amount of time that these guys have right now, working out, handling their classwork virtually, there’s a lot of time we could continue to be improving things in the virtual meeting.
“There’s some limitations to them,” Riley continued, “but there’s often some strong benefits. So, you know, I hope at some point we can ramp it up a little bit to make up for some lost time.”
Ohio State running back Trey Sermon
Former Oklahoma running back Trey Sermon announced on March 22 he’s transferring to Ohio State after posting a picture of himself in a Buckeyes jersey. He entered the NCAA Transfer Portal on March 14.
Sermon ran for 2,076 yards and 22 touchdowns in his three seasons with the Sooners. He ran 385 yards and four touchdowns in 2019 before suffering a season-ending lower-body injury in OU’s win over Iowa State.
“Love the three years that we had with him,” Riley said. “Hated that it ended the way it did for him. Middle of last season, I knew he was frustrated. And then obviously the injury was just a horrible way for (his career at OU) to end. Hate that it ended on a sour note for him because he did a great job here. With (him entering the portal), we get it.
“I get it, I respect it,” Riley continued. “It’s part of the world we live in. So, certainly nothing but positives to say about him, with the kind of person he was, the kind of player he was. He represented us well. Loved every second with him and we definitely wish him the best.”
Jamar Cain, DeMarco Murray and missing spring
In their first season on OU’s staff, running backs coach DeMarco Murray and outside linebackers/defensive ends coach Jamar Cain are having to skip spring practice due to a worldwide pandemic.
Not getting the coaching reps in the spring can be difficult, but Riley insists Cain and Murray have handled it the best they can.
“They’ve both handled it well,” Riley said, “and we’ve had to do some things to continue to help to get those guys get acclimated, but they’re both sharp guys. They’re both picking up, you know what we want in our program, what we want schematically all extremely well, so you’d love to have the time with those guys, but again, we’re lucky that they’re two very bright, highly motivated guys that you know that are doing a good job of putting in the work that they need, even though we’re not in the office to continue to prepare, then get themselves ready, and so it’s no different than for the players right now.”
Riley ended the conference call saying it would’ve been worse if the pandemic happened last year, when defensive coordinator Alex Grinch was implementing a new defense, Jalen Hurts was brand new to the program and four starting offensive linemen left for the NFL.
“I’m sure glad it’s not last year,” Riley said. “A brand new quarterback, a brand new O-line and a brand new defense. Not that I’m sleeping great, but I would’ve been sleeping a little bit worse last year.”
Caleb McCourry is the assistant sports editor at The Daily and is a junior at OU majoring in English. He’s covered football, basketball and volleyball.