OU hires Northwestern O-line coach to same post

Updated: February 6, 2006, 9:20 PM ET
Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Oklahoma has hired Northwestern offensive line coach James Patton to serve in the same position on the Sooners' football staff, Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops said Monday.

Patton, 34, fills the position vacated when receivers coach and passing game coordinator Darrell Wyatt left for a job with the NFL's Minnesota Vikings last month. At Northwestern, Patton worked with Kevin Wilson, who became the Sooners' offensive coordinator in December, after Chuck Long became the head coach at San Diego State.

Patton replaced Wilson as Northwestern's offensive line coach after Wilson joined the Oklahoma staff at the end of the 2001 season. Patton also played under Wilson when Wilson was an assistant at Miami (Ohio).

"Kevin was an outstanding mentor to me," Patton said. "It's great that we have a chance to hook up again. We have a very good working relationship. When he says something, I know how he wants it done.

"This is an opportunity to be part of a national championship program. That's also a great challenge, but it's one I look forward to."

Stoops also announced the juggling of coaching responsibilities within his staff. Wilson, the offensive line coach the past four seasons, will now coach tight ends and fullbacks. Kevin Sumlin, who's coached tight ends for three seasons, now will coach receivers and add the titles of co-offensive coordinator and passing game coordinator.

"I wanted to free up Kevin Wilson a little bit," Stoops said. "The offensive line is a consuming job with 12 to 15 players and a lot of different assignments. Now he'll coach a smaller group, but also be right in the center of our offense and able to work centrally with both the running and passing aspects of the offense."

Sumlin also had been the Sooners' special teams coordinator. Stoops said he'll either assign that job within the staff "or handle it myself like I have in the past."

Patton spent the past seven seasons at Northwestern, five of those as the Wildcats' offensive line coach.

The former first-team All-Mid-American Conference tight end at Miami began his coaching career at his alma mater, spending two seasons as a graduate assistant before joining the staff at Rhode Island in 1995. He spent three seasons with the Rams before going back to Miami for one season, and then to Northwestern.

Northwestern finished 7-5 last season and ranked fourth in NCAA Division I-A in total offense, averaging 500.3 yards per game.

Stoops said the fact Patton has previously worked with Wilson was "a factor, but not the only factor" in the hiring decision.

"My first factor was the success he's had there and the success he's had with their offense," Stoops said.

With Patton having worked with Wilson, "you get firsthand information on how the guy coaches and how he works, so you have a certain confidence ... you know what you're getting," Stoops said. "It will make the transition easier with our offensive line guys."

Patton is the second new assistant to join Stoops' staff since December. After Long left and Wilson was promoted, Stoops hired former Oklahoma quarterback Josh Heupel as the Sooners' quarterbacks coach.

Stoops said he deliberately waited until after the first day of the NCAA's signing period for football, which was Feb. 1, to fill the staff vacancy left by Wyatt. He said that some coaches wouldn't want to leave their previous program near the end of the recruiting process but would feel more comfortable doing so once their recruiting duties had been completed.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press