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OU football: Dennis Simmons elevated to Sooners' assistant head coach/passing game coordinator

OU assistant coach Dennis Simmons signals during a 52-14 win against West Virginia on Oct. 19, 2019, in Norman. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]
OU assistant coach Dennis Simmons signals during a 52-14 win against West Virginia on Oct. 19, 2019, in Norman. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]

Outside receivers coach Dennis Simmons has been a huge part of OU’s offensive revival since Lincoln Riley’s arrival in 2015.

Wednesday, Riley announced Simmons was now the Sooners’ passing game coordinator and assistant head coach.

“He’s been tremendous,” Riley said. “His record speaks for itself. He’s absolutely one of the premier receiver coaches in the country. He and Coach (Cale) Gundy have done such a good job with our guys.”

Riley and Simmons coached receivers together at Texas Tech in 2008-09 before heading to East Carolina with Ruffin McNeill. Simmons spent two seasons there before rejoining Mike Leach at Washington State.

“He’s certainly been a guy that I can lean on, somebody I’ve got a very close relationship with, certainly one of the most trusted confidants as far as the staff,” Riley said.

Riley: Hope Radley-Hiles stays

Sooners nickelback Brendan Radley-Hiles recently entered the NCAA transfer portal, but Riley said he hoped Radley-Hiles would decide to stay.

“I certainly hope his career here is not over,” Riley said. “We’ll see how it plays out.”

Radley-Hiles has started 32 games over the last three seasons with three interceptions.

He’s also been a lightning rod among OU fans thanks to a combination of the five-star hype he arrived with and some of his struggles, including notable penalties especially in the Peach Bowl to end the 2019 season and at Iowa State in 2020.

“He’s had a great impact here,” Riley said. “The people here within the walls probably understand that a whole lot better than the people outside. Everybody’s gotta realize, when he came in here, obviously there was a lot of hype around him. He walked into a defensive situation that year that was very, very tough. A lot of that got put on him from the public. … That’s the nature of the beast. That’s the good with the bad.

“The thing about that kid, that kid’s had so many great moments here, whether being game-saving interceptions, big plays that he’s had, game-winning plays for us he’s had. He’s been a huge part of just kind of our culture, helping young players. … If we can get the same amount of contributions out of all our players that we have out of him, then we’re gonna get much better in a hurry.”

Congel good fit for Sooners

While the Tennessee trio of transfers got plenty of attention, as did Penn State quarterback transfer Micah Bowens, the transfer of offensive lineman Robert Congel flew under the radar a bit.

“He reminded us of a couple of guys that we’d had before with some of his position flexibility and some of the experience that he had,” Riley said.

The Sooners are looking to fill two spots in their offensive line, with center Creed Humphrey and right tackle Adrian Ealy having left early for the NFL Draft.

Congel made 13 starts over the last two seasons at Arizona, starting at all three interior spots — seven at left guard, five at right guard and one at center.

“He was looking for an opportunity to come to a place like Oklahoma and have a chance to compete for championships,” Riley said. “And so we had what he was looking for and he had what we were looking for.”

Ryan Aber, Staff writer

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 ›