Mike Riley returns to OSU: 'I'm really fired up'
Oregon State announced the hiring of four assistant coaches to head coach Jonathan Smith's football staff — and three of them are familiar names.
Former OSU head coach Mike Riley, ex-Beaver assistant coach Jim Michalczik and current quality controls analyst Jake Cookus are among Smith's first official hires.
The other hire is Brian Lindgren, co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Colorado. Lindgren will serve as the Beavers' offensive coordinator. Michalczik, who coached at Arizona the past four seasons and was on Dennis Erickson's OSU staff from 1999-2001, will coach the offensive line. Cookus — a former OSU safety who handled special teams this past season for the Beavers — will coach special teams.
Riley has been named assistant head coach, although his exact role has yet to be determined.
"I told Jonathan to hire the best people he can and plug me in wherever he wants to," Riley said. "I could do the secondary — that's where I spent half my career. I could coach quarterbacks, running backs, receivers, tight ends. … I'll do whatever Jonathan wants me to do."
Smith is working to fill the other six coaching positions. Among the candidates he is considering are Trent Bray, the ex-OSU linebacker and assistant coach who coached under Riley at Nebraska the past three seasons; ex-OSU defensive tackle Inoke Breckterfield, who coaches the D-line at Wisconsin; Tim Tibesar, the defensive run game coordinator and outside linebackers coach at Wisconsin, and Wyoming D-coordinator Scottie Hazelton.
Riley, recently fired as head coach at Nebraska, served two stints as head coach at OSU — in 1997 and '98 and from 2003-14. He has kept a house in Corvallis and will be reunited with his daughter, Kate, and grandchildren Eli, 6, and Cici, 10 months.
"Oh, my gosh, can you believe it?" Riley said. "It's the best thing. I'm so thankful. We've been around the block. The timing of all this was perfect. The fact that I'll get to work under a guy I've admired and enjoyed for so many years at a place I love, with the reconnection with my family here — I'm just so thankful for it.
"I'm really excited about the opportunity to get this going again like we can. I'm really fired up."
Smith was at Oregon State for two years under Riley (1997 and '98) and played his redshirt freshman season for him, earning the starting job midway through the '98 campaign.
"I'll never forget my first meeting with him in Glendora, California," Riley said. "I went down to recruit (offensive lineman) Dustin Janz. I'd been watching their (video) and liked how the quarterback threw the ball. I asked the coach if I could meet him, and in walks this scrawny little kid, maybe 5-10 and 165.
"But we had the greatest talk. He reminded me of myself when I was that age. He was looking for a place to go where he could play some football and learn to be a coach. His grandmother lived in Corvallis. I said, 'We'll fly you up for an official visit. You can walk on, and if you ever get as high as second team, I'll give you a scholarship.' The rest is history."
Riley had two other offers to coach with Power Five schools, "and I almost took one of them," he said. "This deal came up in just the nick of time. I had to tell both (schools), 'I have to do this. I have to do it because of my feelings for Jonathan, for Oregon State, and because of my wife, my daughter and my grandkids.'"
Riley, 64, said his initial inclination was to return to Corvallis, "be with family, take a deep breath and see what happens. I don't have an agent. I wasn't pursuing or looking for anything. But really, I cannot imagine not working. I feel like I have more to offer than ever, from perspective and experience.
"I'm just so glad. I think I can be a good help to Jon and add to the staff wherever he sees fit."
Riley has been watching video the past two days in Corvallis with Michalczik and Lindgren, "and I'm really, really impressed," he said. "Jonathan got a couple of good ones there. I always respected what Brian did at Colorado."