NORMAN — In just 9½ months as a Norman resident Alex Grinch has achieved two distinctions.
He is the first assistant coach at any Oklahoma school, and in any sport, to have commanded a salary of at least $1 million; and he is the coordinator of one of the more improved defenses in the nation.
At some point before Christmas, Grinch’s agent and OU athletic director Joe Castiglione might revisit the compensation terms of the coordinator’s three-year contract.
After that conversation, there could be a third distinction for the 39-year-old Grinch: OU’s first $2 million assistant. At the very least, there would be a bump to something in the neighborhood of $1.8 million.
As a rising-star figure in college football’s super heavyweight division, Grinch was paid $800,000 last year at Ohio State and currently makes $1.4 million at OU. USA Today reports Grinch’s salary ranks No. 10 among all college football assistants.
Next season? He might be a head coach next season, but Grinch has a great situation at OU and the luxury of being selective.
At the end of the 1998 season, as Florida’s nationally renowned defensive coordinator, Bob Stoops got his first opportunity to lead a program. That went pretty well both for Stoops and the University of Oklahoma.
Grinch in 2019 resembles Stoops in 1998.
Following a tremendous Oct. 12 performance against Texas with a mostly strong showing Saturday, the Sooner defense took another positive step during a 52-14 rout of West Virginia.
As backups got a lot of the fourth-quarter reps, the OU statistical story is best told on the basis of what happened through three periods: On 21 rushing attempts, West Virginia totaled only 24 yards. With former Sooner Austin Kendall at QB, the Mountaineers through three quarters had 177 total yards.
On Kendall’s first deep shot of the game, former Union star Tre Brown responded with a break-up of a well-thrown ball intended for Sam James. On the next play, Kendall launched another deep throw. Again, James was targeted. Again, Brown got a hand on the football.
And on the next play, Kendall fired a 15-yard throw intended for Ali Jennings near the Sooners sideline. The previous passes were on the money, but this one was a little behind the receiver. Even if it had been more accurate, Parnell Motley was positioned to correctly execute his assignment.
Motley punched the football to the turf, and West Virginia was forced to boot one of its 10 punts.
A few plays later, after West Virginia’s T.J. Simmons collected a pass near the Mountaineer sideline, safety Delarrin Turner-Yell was the only Sooners defender in the vicinity. His textbook tackle limited Simmons’ gain to 7 yards.
How many times last season did OU not make that tackle?
Too many. That’s why Grinch is here now.
During the third period, as OU led by five touchdowns, Sooners defensive end Marcus Stripling sprinted 25 yards to belt Kendall in the back and force the football to squirt out of bounds.
It was a classic extra-effort play, and through seven games this season, there seems to have been more of those than in 14 games last season.
With regard to weather, this was the most pleasant back-to-back in memory. After having beaten Texas in 60-degree perfection, OU schooled West Virginia in 70-degree comfort.
The forecast for next Saturday’s OU-Kansas State contest in Manhattan: 63 and sunny.
Eventually, though, there will be less-than-ideal conditions. It might be cold or wet — or cold and wet — for the Nov. 9 Iowa State challenge, the Nov. 23 TCU game or the Nov. 30 Bedlam showdown in Stillwater.
That’s the beauty of the Riley-Grinch partnership: the Sooners now have two components — a dynamic run game and a developing defense — that can thrive in any conditions.
When the defense played so well against Texas, it was a revelation. To have gotten a nice encore against West Virginia isn’t cause for excessive celebration, but it’s a sign Grinch’s guys are on the right track.
The slightly-beyond-midseason rating of the Oklahoma defense: above average.
The potential ceiling: This defense could become a real asset in OU’s most important games.
The Grinch grade: A-plus.
It should be remembered that 11 months ago at Morgantown, when matched with a West Virginia team that had a different coach and a different quarterback, the Sooners defense gave up 56 points, 704 total yards and 8 yards per play.
At $1.4 million, Grinch already is among the higher-paid of all Oklahomans. Whether it’s at OU or elsewhere, he’ll make a lot more next year.