Five OU football coaching candidates following the departure of Lincoln Riley to USC

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  • Lincoln Riley
    American football player and coach
  • Brent Venables
    Brent Venables
    American football player and coach

The search is underway in Norman.

The Oklahoma football team took a crushing blow on Sunday after head coach Lincoln Riley accepted an offer to become the new shot caller at USC.

Riley went 55-10 during his five seasons at the helm of the Sooners' program, and he leaves behind what is arguably now the most desirable coaching vacancy in the country.

Here are five candidates for Riley's replacement at OU:

More: What you need to know about OU football's coaching change from Lincoln Riley to Brent Venables

Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables
Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables

Brent Venables

A return to Norman for Brent Venables would be fitting.

The Clemson defensive coordinator served as a member of OU's staff from 1999-2011. He spent time as a defensive coordinator, linebackers coach and an assistant head coach during his time with the Sooners.

Venables has experienced plenty of success since joining Clemson's staff in 2012. The Tigers have won two national championships, and Venables won the 2016 Broyles Award, which went to the nation's top assistant coach.

Venables' experience with both the program and the College Football Playoff makes him an ideal candidate to lead OU when it makes the move to the SEC no later than in 2025.

Carlson: Why Sooner Nation shouldn't lose hope just because it is losing Lincoln Riley

South Carolina head coach Shane Beamer
South Carolina head coach Shane Beamer

Shane Beamer

Shane Beamer also has a connection to the Sooners.

The South Carolina head coach served as OU's assistant head coach from 2018-20. He was a part of the staff that coached the Sooners to a nation-leading scoring offense in 2018, averaging 48.4 points per contest.

The Gamecocks improved from 2-8 in 2020 to 6-6 this season under Beamer, and the first-year head coach also showed his skills on the recruiting trail by securing commitments from four four-star recruits.

Beamer signed a five-year deal worth $2.75 million per year with South Carolina on Dec. 15, 2020, but he would be in for a pay raise if OU came calling.

Mood in Norman: Watch OU leadership address Lincoln Riley's departure to USC, coaching search ahead

Live from USC: Watch Lincoln Riley be introduced as USC's head coach

Baylor coach Dave Aranda and OU's Lincoln Riley shake hands after this year's game.
Baylor coach Dave Aranda and OU's Lincoln Riley shake hands after this year's game.

Dave Aranda

Perhaps no program in the country experienced as big of a comeback as Baylor did this season.

After going 2-7 last season in Dave Aranda's first year as head coach, the Bears finished the 2021 regular season with a 10-2 record and a ticket to the Big 12 Championship Game against Oklahoma State.

Aranda spent four seasons as LSU's defensive coordinator before arriving in Waco, and he was a part of the Tigers' national championship run in 2019.

Aranda has been a popular name in the coaching carousel lately. He was connected to the Florida and USC openings, which are now both filled, and he remains an obvious candidate for LSU's vacancy.

Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports reported on Friday that Aranda is expected to sign an extension with Baylor sometime over the next two weeks, but that could change now that OU is searching for a new head coach.

OU football: Lincoln Riley officially departs for USC, several assistants joining him

Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley talks with Iowa State coach Matt Campbell on Nov. 20 in Norman.
Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley talks with Iowa State coach Matt Campbell on Nov. 20 in Norman.

Matt Campbell

Iowa State took a massive leap last season thanks to Campbell.

After leading the Cyclones to a 2-7 record during his first season as the head coach in 2016, Campbell coached the program to a 9-3 record in 2020.

Iowa State entered the 2021 campaign as OU's biggest threat to the conference crown, but it finished the regular season with a disappointing record of 7-5. Despite this, Campbell is still a two-time Big 12 Coach of the Year and one of the most desirable candidates in the country.

USC also expressed interest in Campbell before ultimately going with Riley, but the six-year Iowa State head coach should get some consideration in Norman.

Campbell's contract buyout is a whopping $28.3 million, though, which makes his departure from Iowa State unlikely.

Tramel: Lincoln Riley pulls a Trojan horse in USC move, clearly wanting to stay clear of the SEC

Coach Luke Fickell and Cincinnati could miss the playoff even with a 13-0 record.
Coach Luke Fickell and Cincinnati could miss the playoff even with a 13-0 record.

Luke Fickell

Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell is in high demand.

The Bearcats went 4-8 in 2016 before hiring the former Ohio State co-defensive coordinator, but they've gone 47-14 since then.

This season is Fickell's best with the program. Cincinnati finished its regular season with a 12-0 record and entrenched itself in the race for the College Football Playoff.

Fickell should be at the top of the list for any coaching vacancy in the country, but it'll be difficult to pry him away from Cincinnati. Dodd reported on Wednesday that Fickell is staying with the program and that recruits have been told such.

Justin Martinez can be reached at jmartinez@oklahoman.com or @JTheSportsDude on Twitter. Make sure to subscribe to The Oklahoman to stay up to date with all local sports.

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: OU football coaching candidates to replace Lincoln Riley

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