Lincoln Riley's one-game audition as an offensive coordinator went off without a hitch. Now he'll get plenty more chances to show he can call plays with the best of them.
Ruffin McNeill, who was hired today as the head coach at East Carolina University, has chosen Riley as his offensive coordinator. Described by Gil Brandt -- the former Dallas Cowboys vice president of player personnel -- as one of the rising stars of college football, Riley is a 26-year old offensive mastermind who, as the interim offensive coordinator for Texas Tech back on Jan. 2, led the Red Raiders to a 43-31 victory over Michigan State in the Alamo Bowl.
In that game, the Raiders compiled 579 yards while marching up and down the field. That was the most yards they accumulated in a bowl game since they gained 606 yards against Air Force in the 1995 Copper Bowl.
"I'm excited, man,'' said Riley, who will run a version of the spread offense at ECU that he learned under former Tech coach Mike Leach. "I'll get a chance to do some things and work for some great guys, so that's exciting.
"I'm just thinking about the opportunities and all the good things it has. It feels really good.''
Riley will fly to North Carolina in the morning and hope to get there in time for McNeill's 11 a.m. EST press conference. He said it's a godsend to be working for McNeill.
"Going in and working for somebody that you know and that you respect and would like to work for makes it all better. I feel good knowing I'm working for a great man -- a guy that'll be a great head coach.
"Both of us believe in what we want to do offensively.''
The Pirates were 9-5 and Conference USA champs in each of the past two seasons. They finished this past year winners in four of their last five games, but lost to Arkansas in the Liberty Bowl, 20-17 in overtime.
Riley knows he has to groom a new quarterback at ECU since senior Pat Pinkney has used up his eligibility. This past year Pinkney was 259-of-440 for 2,977 yards and 15 touchdowns.
The ECU backup quarterback was Josh Jordan, a 6-4, 218-pound freshman who completed just 5-of-7 passes for 61 yards and no touchdowns. But in a spread offense where footballs fly as much as birds in the sky, Riley knows he'll find a capable quarterback.
"There's enough quarterbacks that want to go throw it, so we'll go find the best guy we can and go to work,'' Riley said. "Finding a quarterback won't be a problem.
"Whenever you have this (spread) offense, there will be quaterbacks, because they want to throw the ball.''
And in Riley's uptempo offense at ECU, the Pirates will be filling the airways with footballs. Riley can't wait to get started.
_ Dwain Price