Lincoln Riley has found his man.
According to college football insider Bruce Feldman, Riley has hired Ohio State’s Alex Grinch to coordinate Oklahoma’s defense.
OU has yet to formally announce the hiring.
Grinch, 39, comes to OU from Ohio State, where he was co-defensive coordinator behind Greg Schiano under Urban Meyer.
He previously was defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach at Washington State under Mike Leach (2015-17), safeties coach at Missouri under Gary Pinkel (2012-14) and defensive backs coach at Wyoming under Dave Christensen (2009-11).
Grinch played college football at Mount Union, where from 1998-2001 his team went 54-1 and won three Division III national championships. He got started in coaching as a grad assistant at Missouri and then coached defensive backs at FCS New Hampshire for four seasons (2005-08).
Grinch helped the Cougars make huge defensive strides in Pullman. Washington State ranked 97th nationally in total defense the year before he arrived, but ranked 16th in the country when he left for Columbus.
In Grinch’s one season at Ohio State, the Buckeyes allowed 403.4 yards per game — the most in school history and the 71st-best defense in FCS this season. The Buckeyes’ 25.5 points per game allowed this season ranked 50th nationally.
He was reportedly paid $800,000 this season at Ohio State after making $600,000 a year at Washington State.
Meyer added Grinch to the Ohio State staff with the intention of replacing Schiano when Schiano was set to be hired as head coach at Tennessee. But amid controversy from his days as a Penn State assistant, Schiano remained in Columbus and Grinch was co-defensive coordinator.
Meyer had reportedly wanted Grinch to stay at Ohio State for at least another year. But Meyer’s sudden retirement this year following offseason controversy around former Buckeyes assistant Zach Smith and Meyer’s own health concerns got Ryan Day promoted to head coach and made Grinch’s status in Columbus less certain.
Grinch’s trademark, particularly at Washington State, has been turnovers. Before he got to Pullman, the Cougars ranked 124th in takeaways with just eight. In his three seasons, WSU averaged 25 takeaways per year. His last year at WSU, the Cougars ranked ninth nationally with 28 takeaways.
That’s good new for Oklahoma, which ranked 120th in the nation this season with 11 takeaways (five fumbles and six interceptions).
The Sooners have been looking for a defensive coordinator since Riley fired Mike Stoops the day after losing to Texas in the Red River Rivalry. Riley named defensive tackles coach Ruffin McNeill his interim, but Oklahoma has continued to struggle defensively, ranking 101st nationally in points allowed (33.3), 114th in total yards allowed (453.8) and 129th — dead last — in passing yards allowed (294.0).
But really, OU has been looking for defensive success a lot longer than that. Oklahoma hasn’t fielded a fearsome defense since 2009, when OU ranked 8th nationally in total defense. The Sooners’ highest ranking for total defense during the nine years since was 2013, when the Sooners ranked 20th.
Since 2009, the Sooners’ defense has ranked 53rd, 55th, 64th (Stoops’ first season back from Arizona), 20th, 51st, 39th, 82nd, 67th and 114th.
Columnist John E. Hoover is co-host of “The Franchise Drive” every weeknight from 6-8 on The Franchise in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, and appears throughout the day on other shows on The Franchise. Listen at fm107.7 in OKC, fm107.9/am1270 in Tulsa, on The Franchise app, or click the “Listen” tab on The Franchise home page. Hoover also covers the Big 12 for Sporting News and Lindy’s magazine and is a feature writer for Sooner Spectator magazine. Visit his personal page at johnehoover.com.