The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

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The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

SMU Juniors Jaisan Avery and Kayla Spears paint together during Curlchella hosted by SMU Fro, Dallas Texas, Wednesday April 17, 2024 (©2024/Mikaila Neverson/SMU).
SMU Fro's Curlchella recap
Mikaila Neverson, News Editor • April 23, 2024

Primed For the Moment, How OC Garrett Riley Plans to Make His Own Impression on SMU Football


UNIVERSITY PARK, Texas– Garrett Riley joked that he had been in Dallas for no more than five seconds before he hit the recruiting trail. In a new job, new offense and in a new program, the freshly minted SMU offensive coordinator ironically found a sanctuary from the chaos inside the bevy of Texas high school football programs he visited each day.

The reason for this was simple: he had been in those meeting rooms and coaches offices his entire life. Growing up in Texas, playing at Texas Tech and Stephan F. Austin as a quarterback and, finally, entering the coaching ranks, Riley has always been entrenched in Dallas high school football. So as his life was uprooted and his career took a major leap into prominence, being back in the place it all began was comforting.

His title of SMU’s 30-year-old offensive coordinator made his return that much sweeter.

“I flew in, met everybody for about five seconds, and I was on the road the next day. That is just how it was. But, the cool thing is, I was in Dallas pretty much that whole time,” Riley said in an interview with “All these guys I have known and been familiar with, it was pretty cool to be back. This time, knowing I was an in-state coach. I have never worked in this state before, but I am a Texas person and have Texas connections.”

Riley’s easy-going demeanor puts him right at home in Dallas, but focusing only on his personality ignores a background that seems tailored for this particular job and this moment. The brother of Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley, college football’s unanimous standard-bearer as the next hotshot head coach, Riley’s last name is the only thing that is nationally recognized outside coaching circles. Garrett Riley’s experience makes him believe he can make his own impression on the sport at SMU. While Riley is not chasing the gravitas his brother’s name carries- he laughs about the question- his resume would indicate SMU might be the place his career, and SMU’s offense, collide in a good way.

Riley outlines two reasons for this potential stars aligning moment- his background with Sonny Dykes and his coaching tree experience.

“It checked all the boxes. It was a combination of getting back to Texas (and) working with a guy I had some familiarity with, Coach Dykes. Being aligned philosophy wise with him on offensive football, and just football in general (helped). Then, you know, all the great momentum that is happening with SMU football just combined together. If it wasn’t all combined together, I don’t know if I would have (moved),” Riley said on Wednesday.

Out of high school, Riley emerged as a quarterback at Texas Tech in 2008. Six years earlier, his brother was a walk-on in Mike Leach’s program. On that staff, from 2000-06, current SMU head coach Dykes was an assistant on the offensive side of the ball. While Dykes and Riley were never together, it was in Lubbock where the two started this decade-long process of working with one another.

“I had a sense of what was going on (at Texas Tech). I just kind of knew about Sonny and that staff as that whole thing was going on and it kind of boomed,” Riley reminisced with “Ever since then, I have never personally worked with him but I have always been in those same networks of people that have come from that same background. Everything I have heard has been consistent with what type of guy he is.”

That background that Riley falls back on is far-reaching. After playing at Texas Tech, Riley transferred to play one year at SFA. Upon completing his college career, that he looks back on as limited by his athletic ability, he bounced around at Kansas and East Carolina. The most important stop, though, was at Appalachian State. Assisting with the running backs and eventually being promoted, albeit for two weeks, to offensive coordinator, he was tutored under the offense Dykes and former offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee ran at SMU.

“I was fortunate being with Coach Eliah Drinkwitz last year who also came from that Auburn coaching tree like Lashlee did. So it also made sense for me (watching film) of what Rhett was doing last year,” Riley said in an interview with “I had a baseline understanding and, to be honest, that allowed me to hit the ground running a little bit more had I not what they were doing. I think that kind of helped.”

Sonny Dykes echoed this call himself, even going as far as saying that was one of the main reasons he hired Riley. Not wanting to change the offensive structure too much from last year’s record breaking season, Riley intends on bringing minor changes that will stay within the system but increase production.

“I don’t think the average fan will be able to see much of a difference to be honest with you. There will be some little nuances like some of the receivers won’t switch sides of the field, allowing us to play a little faster,” Dykes said after the opening day of practice. “Garrett is a lot like my philosophy. We really believe in simplicity and execution.”

Riley was so in step with that, he even used the same terminology. The challenge now, without spring practice for the time being due to the Coronavirus, is building on a unit that tallied records in nearly every offensive category. Prepped with the experience behind him and with his new coaching staff at his side, Riley feels he is primed to do so.

“Now it is about what can you carry over that they were doing well. What fits into what I envision our offensive to be run and you put it all together,” a resolved Riley, leaning back in his chair with ease, said.

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