What makes Lincoln Riley college football’s ‘quarterback whisperer’


“You can’t have a great team without the quarterback play that college football requires.”

This is Joel Klatt’s take on measuring the similarities between QB play and winning college football. And no one has proven more accurate on that point than USC coach Lincoln Riley.

Riley, who led the Trojans to an 11-2 regular-season record in his first year at USC, is entering his sixth season as a college football head coach. He spent his first five years in Oklahoma, leading the Sooners to his combined 55-10 mark. This includes three conference titles, three college football playoff appearances, and top ten rankings in the final AP polls for all five seasons.

But as remarkable as these numbers are, an argument can be made that the biggest measure of Riley’s success as a coach is his quarterback play.

Since becoming head coach at the University of Oklahoma in 2017, Riley has started five quarterbacks, including four Heisman Trophy finalists and three Heisman Trophy winners.

“It’s an amazing idea,” Kratt said on a recent episode of The Joel Kratt Show on the podcast. I’ve never seen anything like this before.”

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Quarterbacks to play under Riley are Baker Mayfield (2017), Kyler Murray (2018), Jalen Hurts (2019), Spencer Ratler (2020-21) and Caleb Williams (2021-22).

Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy in 2017, Murray won it in 2018, Hearts were finalists in 2019 and Williams won it this season.

“When you look at them, this isn’t exactly the same player,” Crutt said. “They aren’t cut from the exact same mold. They don’t play the game exactly the same. They have strengths, they have weaknesses, and they’re all very different.”

Each of the first quarterbacks to play under Riley had their own unique characteristics, but they also had a lot in common. They were all very accurate passers, all in charge of football and, most importantly, all won many football games.

In the 2017-22 season, Riley’s team finished 66-12 combined (85% win percentage) and went 45-8 in conference games.

Klatt said of Riley, “He’s a guy who understands what’s in front of him and how to make it.” , know exactly where they are.

“Alabama is doing a great job, Ohio State is doing a great job at quarterback, and Lincoln Riley is doing a great job at quarterback.”

But when it comes to coaching the quarterback position, Riley has one trait that makes Crutt stand out from the rest.

“He’s not guiding their creativity,” Kratt said. “Often times, coaches are so concerned about mistakes that they turn players into robots and lose what really made them good.

“There is a certain amount of creativity and artistry in the quarterback position, and you can’t play like a robot. The best players have beauty in the way they play.”

That includes Williams banning any unexpected changes, which will see him return to the center of Riley’s offense next season. , are ineligible for the 2023 NFL Draft.

The idea of ​​these two pairing up next season in Los Angeles must be terrifying for the rest of college football.

“Lincoln Riley has proven, in his short stint as football head coach, that he’s going to make sure his quarterbacks are good on his offense. And quarterbacks are.”

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Each week, FOX Sports College Football Analyst Joel Klatt dives into his top 10 teams, answers questions, and discusses college football’s biggest stories on the podcast. Download “The Joel Krat Show”.

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