Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley had to take a second to ponder the position he's in as a 36-year-old at the helm of the Sooners.
In a press conference Wednesday, after the Tulsa World's Eric Bailey asked him about being hired as OU's offensive coordinator when he was 31, Riley talked about the journey he's had and his hiring of another coach who's barely in his 30s. When DeMarco Murray was announced as the program's new running backs coach on Jan. 26, he was 31 years old. He just turned 32 on Wednesday.
It wasn't too long ago that Riley, in 2017, became the then-youngest head coach in the FBS at 33.
"I think about that on these days," Riley said. "I certainly remember all of that. It's kind of crazy to think all that's happened in the time since then, all the success and the change of roles and all the fun that we've had, all the great things that have happened. It excites you because there's a lot more of that in the future."
New outside linebackers and defensive ends coach Jamar Cain, who was hired on Jan. 31, had to clarify his age in the press conference, saying he was 40 despite the Sooners' website listing him as 39. With the hiring of Cain and Murray, as well as the departure of 61-year-old outside linebackers coach Ruffin McNeill, the program now has four coaches in their 30s and six in their 40s.
Riley was the only coach in his 30s in his first season as OU's offensive coordinator in 2015. This season, in a sport where age is considered the virtue of coaching, Riley's hires have shown a trend in the opposite direction.
"I think Lincoln hit the nail on the head, just the energetic factor of it," Murray said of being the youngest coach on an already considerably young staff. "Just the mindset of being here and being energetic, being competitive and having a lot of different avenues to get better and grow as a person, as a player and as a coach, I'm excited to be here and be on the staff."
Being closer to one's playing days than retirement has its perks. Murray is just 11 years removed from playing in OU's last national championship game. These perks can also be seen most notably on social media.
Riley revealed on Wednesday just how savvy Murray is when it comes to paying attention to Twitter. He recalled a story where, amid OU's running backs coaching position being open after Jay Boulware left for Texas, co-offensive coordinator Cale Gundy received a text from Murray with the eyes emoji.
Murray also has the resume of a star running back at the college and pro level, which he's just under three years removed from. High school kids, as Riley has pointed out, most likely grew up watching Murray play for the Sooners and in the NFL.
Age hasn't even showed up in its physical form yet for Murray, who still looks fresh coming out of his playing days. He still walks the halls of high schools on recruiting trips signing autographs and taking pictures.
Cain is coming off one year as Arizona State's offensive line coach. In his lone season in Tempe, the Sun Devils ranked No. 26 in the FBS in rushing yards allowed per game with 125.1. In his two seasons with Fresno State, Cain had immense success with the Bulldogs, who tallied a 22-6 record and won a bowl game.
With one year of OU defensive coordinator Alex Grinch's new, aggressive system in the books, Cain can contribute to a promising defensive end and linebackers corps that includes returning players in LaRon Stokes, Jalen Redmond, DaShaun White, Nik Bonitto and an impressive defensive 2020 recruiting class.
Murray's first year has returning star power in redshirt junior Kennedy Brooks, Trey Sermon — who suffered a season-ending leg injury earlier in the 2019 season — and Rhamondre Stevenson, who will start his 2020 season later on after he misses a few games due to suspension.
With these two new hires, Riley said he couldn't have been happier with how things turned out, and he will see his decision play out though the offseason and into the 2020 season.
"I just don't feel like we could've done any better," Riley said of the hires. "Both (are) just the right guys, the right kind of people, the right kind of recruiters, coaches, at the right time. (They're) exactly what our program needed."