Now that the 2018 season has come to a close, the burning question for Sooner fans is who will be the next defensive coordinator at Oklahoma. 2018 will go down as one of the worst defensive seasons in history. The Sooners gave up 40+ points on six different occasions. In a season where Mike Stoops was fired in October, it left fans wondering how bad it could get. The interim period is over. Now, we look at some of the possibilities for the new defensive coordinator.
With this in mind, Golding has long been rumored as the favorite. In not so many words, Lincoln Riley has quietly been targeting Golding for quite some time. First, Golding is the current co-defensive coordinator for Alabama. Now, once you mention Alabama and defensive coordinator in the same sentence that grabs your attention. He has a lot of the same intangibles that Oklahoma is looking for.
In reality, Golding has the looks of the defensive version of Riley. Golding is young at 34 but is known as a defensive prodigy. Much like Riley at East Carolina, Golding transformed the defense at Texas San-Antonio. In 2017, he guided the Roadrunners to the seventh-ranked defense in the country. And, his mark was perhaps no more evident than the fact that his defense allowed 156 fewer yards and nearly 17 fewer points per game from 2015 to 2017. This is Riley’s clear number one target and expect him to do everything he can to pull him out of Tuscaloosa.
Grinch is very similar to Golding in many ways. First, like Golding, Grinch is a co-defensive coordinator currently. 2018 was his first year at Ohio State in a shared role with Greg Schiano. While Grinch does not have quite the same recruiting prowess as Golding, he has been every bit as transformative.
Being a defensive coordinator under Mike Leach cannot be an easy task. However, Grinch made the transition seamlessly. In 2015, he took over a unit that ranked 97th nationally in total defense and turned them into the 16th ranked defense in 2017. Equally important, his final defense in Pullman was ranked seventh nationally in defensive passing efficiency. Also, they forced 28 turnovers and only allowed 11 touchdown passes.
First, let’s acknowledge how close and how eerily similar it would be to former head coach Bob Stoops. Now, after getting over that initial shock factor we have to realize that he is a considerable favorite. While Shoop is a little older, at 56, he is still much more seasoned as a defensive coordinator at some blue-blood programs.
Shoop has served as the defensive coordinator at Vanderbilt, Penn State, Tennessee, and currently at Mississippi State. Oklahoma is at an interesting crossroads in terms of defensive philosophy. The style of offense that the Sooners play against in the Big 12 is much different than that on the national level. And, Shoop has plenty of experience in leading transformative defenses through the years. In fact, this season, he orchestrated the best defense in the country in terms of points given up per game.
The Best of the Rest
Scalley has been the defensive coordinator in Utah for the past three seasons. He has been coaching the defense for the Utes in some capacity for the last 11 years. In 2016, his defense ranked in the top 12 nationally in sacks and tackles for loss. Then, for this season, Utah ranked 15th in the country in total defense and 16th in scoring defense at 18.5 points per game.
At 32, Freeman would be the youngest of the candidates in play. He has been the defensive coordinator for the University of Cincinnati for the last two seasons. Freeman’s defense was instrumental in the double-digit win season for Cincinnati this season. His defense was ranked seventh in scoring defense and eighth in total defense this season.
Schumann is the lone position coach which is a serious candidate for this job. Even though he has not been a defensive coordinator, he is one of the hottest coaching commodities in the south. He spent eight years coaching under Nick Saban and Kirby Smart at Alabama from 2008 to 2015. During that time, he served as a graduate assistant, director of player personnel and player development. Over the past three seasons, he’s served as the inside linebackers coach for Georgia. He’s been responsible for coaching some outstanding linebackers including last years Butkus Award winner Roquan Smith.
Timeline and Final Thoughts
Riley has stated after the Orange Bowl that he is not in a rush to name a defensive coordinator. Now, while that may be true, I expect someone to be named as early as next week after the National Championship game. At the latest, we would expect someone to be in the role no later than the later period of national signing day on February 6th.
Coaching searches like this are extremely tough to predict. Between money and the proposition of coaching in the Big 12 could be a big deterrent. However, expect Oklahoma to pay up to $2 million for their guy. Golding is clearly the man that Riley wants and will make a big move for him. But, should he not want to make the trip away from Alabama and the SEC there are plenty of other options.
Riley knows that the last two seasons have been somewhat of a waste due to the terrible defense being played in Norman. A defense ranked 108th out of 125 is not acceptable for the program. The Sooners will get the right man for the job, but without having Baker Mayfield or Kyler Murray in the fold could it be too little too late? Or, will this be the missing piece to give the Sooners their eighth National Championship? On the bright side, for whomever, it is there will be nowhere to go but up.