When word came down earlier this week that Stanford defensive line coach Randy Hart was retiring, OU's Diron Reynolds made for a natural candidate to replace the Cardinal's longtime assistant. So, it was no shock to learn Wednesday that he's reportedly returning to Palo Alto.
Reynolds deserves his props for furthering the adoption of the 3-4 as the Sooners' primary defensive scheme in his one season on the staff. He also schooled a productive front three. Notably, defensive end Charles Tapper got back on track under his tutelage. Charles Walker also blossomed into the Sooners' best all-around down lineman last year.
Aside from the uncertainty created by an opening at DL coach for the second year in a row, the biggest concern for Bob Stoops at this point should be building on the groundwork laid by Reynolds in recruiting. Although the Sooners failed to sign nose tackle in the 2016 cycle, Reynolds landed stud defensive end Amani Bledsoe out of Kansas and lured talented pass rusher Mark Jackson away from Texas A&M. In his second year on the job, Reynolds would have been expected to take his salesmanship up a notch and also to capitalize on the relationships he built in his first 12 months.
Now, OU has to figure out how to welcome another new face at DL and not lose momentum.
And who will that be? Early names appearing on the radar include Kansas' Calvin Thibodeaux and newly installed Vanderbilt DL coach C.J. Ah You, both of whom played for Stoops in the 2000s. Both strike me as solid candidates.
The Houston native Thibodeaux has worked his way up the coaching ranks. Having coached at Tulsa and Kansas, he also knows the Texas recruiting landscape.
Ah You is a bit more of a wildcard. On the plus side, having spent the past season as a grad assistant at OU, he assisted Reynolds with the defensive line. He's familiar with the personnel and what OU wants to do scheme-wise. Furthermore, Stoops clearly thinks highly of his future in coaching.
The downside, of course: He's never been a full-fledged position coach before. Ask Bruce Kittle how that works.
From a timing standpoint, the Sooners might have missed out on some quality candidates with Reynolds moving relatively late in the game. For example, Mark Richt snapped up Craig Kuligowski, the ex-Missouri assistant who pumped out NFL draft picks from unheralded recruits for years with the Tigers.
*No one asked me, but a few other guys I'd look at: