DALLAS -- The Cotton Bowl media room had mostly cleared out when Oklahoma defensive coordinator Alex Grinch sat down at the microphone Saturday afternoon.
Grinch was following two head coaches, Oklahoma's Lincoln Riley and Texas' Tom Herman, who had landed opportunities to lead programs before their 40th birthday (in Riley's case, well before). Both Riley and Herman had been high on the next-man-up lists as dynamic young coordinators, a designation Grinch now carries.
Anyone who watched Grinch's defense swarm Texas in Oklahoma's 34-27 win came away impressed with the first-year defensive coordinator. A Sooners defense that hemorrhaged yards and points in 2018, while rarely disrupting the opposition, tied a team record with nine sacks and had 15 tackles for loss.
Anyone who watched Grinch at the podium, however, probably didn't see a defensive coordinator. They saw a head coach. In discussing scheme, players and big-picture philosophy, Grinch projected intelligence, confidence and charisma. To be clear, teams don't hire first-time coaches based on how they handle the media as assistants, but it's part of the evaluation for search firms and athletic directors.
Before the season, I wrote about Grinch as the most important coordinator hire for a playoff contender in years. Halfway through the season, here's a look at Grinch and several other Power 5 defensive coordinators who have seen their head-coaching stock soar.