Only hours before, the Lubbock native lost to Oklahoma State in Bedlam for the first time as a head coach, causing Oklahoma to miss the Big 12 Championship game for the first time since 2014, when Riley was still the offensive coordinator at East Carolina.
As Riley ends his tenure in Norman with a 55-10 record and four Big 12 titles, the recruiting implications of his decision will impact Texas and head coach Steve Sarkisian as the early signing period approaches for the 2022 class.
Two offensive lineman stand out as the most impact by Riley’s decision — Arlington Bowie offensive guard Devon Campbell and Federal Way (Wash.) Todd Beamer offensive tackle Malik Agbo.
The No. 1 interior offensive lineman and the No. 12 player nationally, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings, Campbell has long been considered a Texas lean, but Oklahoma and well-regarded offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh were making a recent push for the 6’3, 310-pounder after hosting him for an official visit in June and an unofficial visit in September.
But now Alabama may be the top competition for Texas, although Campbell was also considering USC — he took an official visit back in June. So the Trojans could remain in the mix with Riley’s move, but the Sooners are likely to fall out of contention in the coming days unless Oklahoma has a head coach with whom Campbell already has a relationship.
Agbo announced on Sunday that he’ll make his commitment on Dec. 15, choosing between Auburn, Miami, Oklahoma, and Texas. Like Campbell, Agbo took an official visit to Norman during the summer and the Sooners even landed a Rivals FutureCast pick earlier this month. So Riley’s departure could have a significant impact on Agbo’s recruitment and increase the odds that he lands with the Longhorns.
But those aren’t the only two, as Humble Atascosita offensive tackle Kam Dewberry was also considering Oklahoma, having taken an official visit to Norman in September. At different points in Dewberry’s recruitment, Ohio State and Texas A&M looked like potential readers, but Oklahoma was definitely in the mix under Riley. Now the question is whether Riley leaving the Sooners actually helps the Longhorns or if it more greatly benefits the Buckeyes or Aggies.
Riley’s arrival in Los Angeles could also impact a California prospect like offensive guard Earnest Greene, who still has an official visit left to take and was likely to leave the state before USC’s splash hire. Even beyond Greene, there’s no question that Riley coaching USC should completely change the recruiting dynamics in Southern California, where Sarkisian has deep connections after growing up there and making multiple stops at USC.
And then there’s Texas quarterback target Devin Brown, who decommitted from USC only days ago. Given Riley’s well-earned reputation developing quarterbacks and Brown’s clear affinity for the Trojans — he took his time opening up his recruitment after Clay Helton was fired — it wouldn’t be surprising to see him opt to play for Riley.
Another possible Texas-USC connection if the staff chooses to pursue a second running back in the 2022 class — Newton’s De’Anthony Gatson is a former Trojans pledge who held an offer from the Longhorns and took an official visit to Austin prior to committing to USC when Texas opted for recent Alabama flip Jamarion Miller. He reopned his recruitment back in September.
What moves Riley makes at quarterback will certainly be fascinating to watch as other coaches around the country lust after Spencer Rattler and Caleb Williams.
Oklahoma and Texas aren’t competing for any other top recruits in the 2022 class, but with the need for linebackers, the Horns could get into contact with Sooners commit Kip Lewis, a Carthage standout sitting just outside the top-250 nationally.
With Riley leaving, the new Oklahoma head coach will also be behind in the 2023 recruiting class — Riley was off to a strong start with that group, landing seven commitments, including a quarterback and two receivers from California who could quickly flip to USC.
And regardless of who replaces Riley, they almost certainly won’t be able to match his offensive acumen, so the dynamic at the Cotton Bowl when both teams meet is certain to change, perhaps even significantly in favor of Sarkisian and the Longhorns.
The talent level for Oklahoma may drop ahead of the move to the SEC, too, as there could be decommitments in the 2022 class and higher-than-normal attrition on the current team.
So there’s little doubt that the shockwaves from Riley’s decision were felt on the Forty Acres on Sunday, and could reverberate as Texas tries to close with Brown, Campbell, Dewberry, and Agbo.