ATLANTA — Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley spoke with the media the morning after his team's 63-28 loss to LSU in the Peach Bowl Saturday night.
From assessing defensive coordinator Alex Grinch's first season to discussing a future quarterback battle between Spencer Rattler and Tanner Mordecai, here's what Riley had to say.
On how much having Jalen Hurts helps for the future:
“I think it will. It helped us this year because our sense of that we needed an older presence in that room was probably right, with all the new parts of the team, the O-line being completely new, and obviously a whole new deal defensively, counting on a lot of young or inexperienced players to play major roles. I think his leadership, his experience was a factor for us, there’s no question. And I think a lot of guys individually will take how they prepared, carried themselves, all of those things, and grow from it.”
On defensive coordinator Alex Grinch's first year:
“The positives heavily outweigh the negatives, without a doubt. I think we did some things defensively this year that were really, really important for the team and program, and we took some steps. We always said it’s not going to all happen right away.
"There’s a step-by-step process to make that happen. I think last night was a good representation of that. You can see that we got to continue to build depth. We got to a point last night where we were outmanned in some areas. Phase one, you get it installed, you work on changing the culture and mentality, which I think we really got off to a strong start with that. And you prove that, with a lot of the same guys, you can go up there and play really, really good defense. And now, I think the next part for us is now, all these recruits have seen that. They’ve seen the proof now. It’s not a mystery. It’s not us just projecting. It’s not hype. Like we did offensively a few years ago, we’re going to start to get better and better players and more of them there.
“And then, the other thing that happens is, when we get started here in a couple of weeks when these guys get back, it’s not the same starting point we were at last year with those guys. Everything was brand new with everybody. We’re starting at a much further point. Now, we’ve still got plenty to go, there’s no doubt about that. But we’re excited about the starting point and what we think we can build there.”
On Spencer Rattler playing backup in the Peach Bowl:
“I repped them both equally. We're to a point where you only have two games left. Spencer’s only used two. Obviously they both — the eligibility wasn’t a concern either way, so I repped both guys. And if Spencer would’ve gotten that first down, I was going to put (Tanner) Mordecai in the very next play. I hoped to rep them both. I put Spencer in first frankly because Spencer’s had less game reps than Tanner’s been able to have, and I wanted to get him in. Obviously, I hoped and planned on getting them both in there at the end. Had them both warmed up, but we’re getting ready to have a battle with those guys. The more reps that they can get, the better.”
On NFL rumors:
“I think our recruits know where we stand. We’ve been very upfront, and it’s a common question. Every home we go into, every person we talk to, that’s a question we get, and I think they’ve appreciated our honesty about it. I’ve told them the same thing that I’ve told you guys. This is where I want to coach, and this is where I want to coach for a long time. I’m not ever going to say never because I don’t ever want to be that guy, but it’s hard to envision me wanting to leave this place unless something about our setup here changed that I thought wasn’t good for the program or our future.”