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OU football: Newest coaching hires give Sooners staff a more youthful feel

NORMAN — Jamar Cain wanted to clarify something Wednesday when he was introduced as OU’s defensive ends and outside linebackers coach.

“I’m 40 years old. I’m not 38, by the way,” Cain said. “I’m 40 years old.”

Cain might not be the spring chicken some thought he was when he was hired by Lincoln Riley, but in his latest round of coaching hires, Riley has once again lowered the average age of his coaching staff.

With the exception of his first hire, Ruffin McNeill, who was brought in to help guide the then 33-year-old Riley’s transition from offensive coordinator to head coach, every assistant Riley has hired since taking over for Bob Stoops has been 40 years old or younger.

That’s not intentional, Riley said, though the traits he looks for in assistants lends itself toward youth.

Alongside recruiting, which has been at the center of nearly every decision Riley has made about the program since taking over, Riley mentioned the continuous need to prove themselves as among the top things he looks for when making a hire.

“I still feel like I’m trying to prove myself every single day and that I have to and certainly look for guys that have that same edge about them and that same competitiveness,” Riley said.

“Not that an older coach doesn’t have that. But I think some of the younger guys we've hired, I think we share that and just that edge and that competitiveness every day. And you have to have that in this job from what it takes to recruit the great players, what it takes to develop the guys and that you have here currently give them support that they need. It takes a lot.”

Riley saw the drive in both Cain and new running backs coach DeMarco Murray.

“I’ve always had to prove myself,” Cain said, pointing to his start as a junior college player at Sacramento City College before moving on to New Mexico State. “I always had to work my entire life. That’s just who I am. … That’s who my family is. I like people doubting me. It doesn’t bother me at all.”

It’s reminiscent of the staff Stoops put together in 1999 when he arrived in Norman.

At 48 years old on the day of Stoops’ first game, Bobby Jack Wright was the oldest coach on that inaugural staff.

Only Mark Mangino joined him as being over 40. Several of the coaches — Brent Venables, Cale Gundy and Steve Spurrier Jr. — were in their 20s.

Riley’s staff isn’t quite trending that young — Murray is the youngest full-time assistant at 32 years old — but there’s definitely a youthful flavor to the group.

“I’ve never not had hunger to be a professional and be the best that I can be,” Murray said, going on to say he wanted to please his coaches as a player.

“That’s the same approach now. I don’t want Lincoln, I don’t want Bill (Bedenbaugh, the Sooners’ offensive line coach), I don’t want anyone having to worry about the running back group. Obviously we won’t be perfect but the thing about me, I am a perfectionist.”

Related Photos
<strong>New OU assistant coach Jamar Cain, who joined the Sooners from New Mexico State, speaks to reporters Wednesday in Norman. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman]</strong>

New OU assistant coach Jamar Cain, who joined the Sooners from New Mexico State, speaks to reporters Wednesday in Norman. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman]

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-e7ebb90992e047199e7ab053fe69bb50.jpg" alt="Photo - New OU assistant coach Jamar Cain, who joined the Sooners from New Mexico State, speaks to reporters Wednesday in Norman. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] " title=" New OU assistant coach Jamar Cain, who joined the Sooners from New Mexico State, speaks to reporters Wednesday in Norman. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> New OU assistant coach Jamar Cain, who joined the Sooners from New Mexico State, speaks to reporters Wednesday in Norman. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure>
Ryan Aber

Ryan Aber has worked for The Oklahoman since 2006, covering high schools, the Oklahoma City RedHawks, the Oklahoma City Barons and OU football recruiting. An Oklahoma City native, Aber graduated from Northeastern State. Before joining The... Read more ›

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