Clemson OC Garrett Riley Recounts Coaching Influences

Seemingly every coach in college football traces back to a prolific figure in the game. 

Nick Saban got his first job from Don James, a College Football Hall of Famer.

Dabo Swinney still talks about the influence former Alabama legend Gene Stallings had on his venture into the profession.

Garrett Riley is no different. 

Clemson’s new offensive coordinator brings an Air Raid system to Tiger Town for the first time, and with it comes the influence of other coaches. 

For Riley, it all started with Mike Leach, the late Mississippi State head coach who made Air Raid concepts popular in college football during his time at Texas Tech in the 2000s.  

Riley was completely indoctrinated into the Air Raid as a quarterback for the Red Raiders from 2008-09. Leach’s impact, as Riley noted, “touched the game in a lot of ways.”

“Coach Leach is probably the whole reason why I wanted to coach,” Riley said. “I was very lucky to be at Texas Tech at that point in time. It was just a period of time where he was very cutting edge with what they were doing and kind of the run they went on at Texas Tech. 

“But I think just more than anything, the way that he was an out-of-the-box thinker and did things his way was very appealing to me, to kind of see a different style, a little bit different than the norm. And that’s what piqued my interest there as a college student, as a young quarterback.”

Leach wasn’t the only person who shaped the career of the 33-year-old Muleshoe, Texas, native who left TCU for Clemson days after helping the Horned Frogs and head coach Sonny Dykes reach the national title game. Riley picked up a heavy running influence baked into the Air Raid from his brother Lincoln, who took Oklahoma to three College Football Playoff appearances before taking over at USC this past season.    

“Every stop I’ve been on, you try and take away pieces from those experiences and I certainly did in the two years that I was with (Lincoln) at East Carolina where we were there together and did some nice things under coach (Ruffin) McNeil. He’s been a huge mentor for me. Specifically with them, of course, I’ve taken some pieces away from that experience but I certainly have from all the other coaches I’ve been around too.”

Want to join in on the discussion? 100% FREE! Interact with fellow Tiger fans and hear directly from publisher Zach Lentz, deputy editor Brad Senkiw, recruiting analyst Jason Priester and staff writer Will Vandervort on any subject. Click here to become a member of the ALL CLEMSON message board community today!
Do us a HUGE favor and like, subscribe and follow us on social media:
►LIKE us on Facebook:
►FOLLOW All Clemson on Twitter:

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
%d bloggers like this: