One of the most influential mentors in Lincoln Riley‘s coaching career is officially coming to help out his protégé.
Wednesday afternoon, reports surfaced that Ruffin McNeill would be added to Riley’s first OU coaching staff. Not long after, the football program indeed confirmed that McNeill will fill the void in the staff.
McNeill will serve as the Sooners’ defensive tackles coach as well as carry the title of assistant head coach. OU’s defensive line coach the past two seasons, Calvin Thibodeaux, will focus his coaching attention on the defensive ends.
McNeill had been the line coach at Virginia since December of 2015. He also carried the title of assistant head coach with the Cavaliers.
“Ruffin McNeill is one of the best people, not only in the world of coaching, but also in the world, period,” UVa. head coach Bronco Mendenhall said in a statement. “I’ve really enjoyed his friendship, the exchange of ideas and the camaraderie that we’ve had together. Ruff has amazing relationships with anyone he’s met. He’s got a great football mind. I am appreciative of all the work he put in helping us to begin to make Virginia an excellent football program.”
Prior to his brief time in Charlottesville, he was the head coach at his alma mater, East Carolina, from 2010-2015 before being abruptly kicked to the curb shortly after the season ended. From 2000-2009, he was an assistant at Texas Tech. Riley and McNeill were on the same staff at Tech from 2007-09, then Riley served as McNeill’s offensive coordinator at ECU from 2010-14 before moving on to Norman.
The school noted in its release that Riley expects to finalize other coaching staff titles in the coming days.
“I’m very excited that Ruffin McNeill is joining our coaching staff. Personally, I have a great history with him from our time together at Texas Tech and East Carolina. We’re getting an extremely high-quality person and coach. Our team and fans will love the personality and energy he’ll bring to our program.
“Ruffin possesses a distinguished record defensively, and I’m excited to see him work alongside defensive coordinator Mike Stoops and the rest of our staff on that side of the ball. I view the defensive line as one of the most important — if not the most important — position groups on the field, and he’ll be a big benefit to our student-athletes and to our program as a whole.”
“I’ve been at every level and have done it a lot of different ways. I’ve been fortunate to work with great people. I’ve had the big-picture view of a head coach, I’ve been a defensive coordinator and I’ve been a special teams coordinator, so I think I have some things I bring to the table. I absolutely love coaching the players. I love that part. I’m excited to do that here. Can’t wait to get on the field, get in the meeting rooms, talk strategy, talk life. That’s what I’ve always been known for; being a hard worker and a team guy. I believe it’s team and family first, last and always. Lincoln and his wife, Caitlin, are family to me. I’ve known him since he was 18 years old when he was a freshman at Texas Tech.
“I believe in working players harder than they’ve worked before, but also loving them more than they’ve ever been loved. That’s my base. And I always am clear with my expectations. ‘Here’s what I expect and why, and here’s what we’re achieving.’ It’s not just the ‘what,’ but it’s also the ‘why’ and the ‘how.’ I treat the players like they’re my sons. Not just my particular group, but the entire team. I’m looking forward to building those relationships here at OU.”