MIAMI, Fla. – As the Sooners look toward the Orange Bowl, some fans are looking past this season and wondering about OU quarterback Kyler Murray’s future.
It’s not every day that a college football player can also sign a contract with a Major League Baseball team. Earlier this year, Murray was drafted by the Oakland A’s before he was in the running for the Heisman Trophy.
Months later, it seems like Murray could be successful in either profession. OU head coach Lincoln Riley says he could tell that Murray had pure talent when he was in high school.
“I felt like just with the way he had played in high school and what I had seen that he would have a pretty good football mind, but you could tell he understood the game. He was raw when he got to us in a lot of ways, but the natural talent, both physically and mentally, was certainly there. There was a lot to work with. He’s got — he loves the Xs and Os, the back and forth of it, and he’s got a great feel for it. Probably appreciating his knowledge and natural feel for the game to go along with the physical abilities that everybody sees,” said Riley.
Last season, some OU fans had no idea what to expect after Baker Mayfield’s college career came to an end.
“It’s amazing. Obviously you just had back-to-back Heisman Trophy winners in two different guys. I mean, it’s never happened. That’s how amazing it is. A lot of it is obviously credited to Coach Riley and what he does offensively. But when you look at the big picture, when you’ve got an offensive line that’s been there for a lot of years, a lot of starts, best offensive line in the country, one of the best offensive lines in the country where you’ve brought back a lot of
the same receiving corps, a lot of the same running backs, Kyler was going to be put in a good situation. It was just — I believe he elevated his game and I think was — there was a little bit of question from everybody was how good was he going to be. We knew he was going to be good, but he elevated his game to a whole ‘nother level, which is pretty neat,” Cale Gundy, OU co-offensive coordinator, said.
This season, Murray has stunned defenses with the strength of his arm and the quickness of his feet.
“He’s probably one of the fastest persons, players I’ve seen in person. He’s so quick and twitchy, it’s unbelievable,” said Ben Powers, OU offensive lineman. “There’s plays where he just takes off, and I’m 50 yards back just thinking, no one is catching up to him.”
Even the players he will be facing in Miami say they can’t wait to see him take the field.
“Oh, he’s exciting to watch. He’s exciting. He’s very explosive. I mean, with what he does in that offense, he’s done a tremendous job, and I have a lot of respect for him,” said Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
So far this season, Murray has passed for 4,053 yards and 40 touchdowns.
Members of Alabama’s defense say they are taking notice of Murray’s skills and say they will be ready.
“He can hurt you with his feet and he can hurt you deep, so it kind of makes you want to balance it out, know your keys and be responsible,” said Deionte Thompson, Alabama safety.
“Yeah, when I watched him on film it’s crazy because he looked like Mike Vick out there running from sideline to sideline, making explosive plays. He just looks amazing on film. And then when you just watch it as a football player, you’ve just really got to sit back and watch it, try and think of how you’re going to stop that, how you’re going to sit there and keep him in the box, keep him contained. It’s one of those things where you have to use a lot of technique,
be patient, you’ve got to do your job mainly,” said Dylan Moses, Alabama linebacker.
“Well, I think the guy is one of the most dynamic players that I have ever seen in college football in terms of his skill set. He can beat you with his feet. He’s got great speed. He’s very athletic. He’s a good passer. They have an outstanding scheme that really challenges you defensively and takes advantage of his skill set in every way, which is pretty obvious by the production that they’ve had all season long in terms of their ability to score points, make explosive plays, his
ability to make explosive plays, and to distribute the ball in a way that all the other players on his team have an opportunity to make explosive plays. And they have great balance, so it’s not just one-dimensional. They run the ball effectively. They make explosive plays in the passing game, and I think it all starts with the system that they have, his ability to execute that system pretty flawlessly for the most part, and it takes advantage of his skill set to a tee,” said Alabama head coach Nick Saban.
After much success in the college football world, many analysts are now wondering if Murray would give up his MLB contract in order to play in the NFL.
Murray says he’s always been confident in his abilities on the diamond and on the football field, adding that he was the only person who ever thought he could play in the NFL before he started this season.
“I always felt like it might be, honestly. That’s the thing is that’s like nobody — nobody expected any of this but me, the people that are closest to [me]. People have always known, people have always watched me play, whether it was
football or baseball, nobody expected it, so now it’s kind of like what do you do? But for me, I’m just taking
it one day at a time and doing what I’ve always done,” Murray said.
Even though his college career is about to come to an end within the next couple of weeks, Murray says that now is not the time to talk about his future plans.
“Right now obviously I’m going to play baseball, but I’m not focused on any of that right now. My main focus is Saturday, getting ready to play this game. Obviously I’ve always been — it’s never bad to have options, but yeah, right now my main focus is this game,” said Murray.
“I haven’t put any energy into worrying about it or anything like that. All I can do is go out and play on Saturday and let my play speak for itself,” Murray added.
OU head coach Lincoln Riley says Murray’s future will ultimately be up to him.
“Regarding Kyler’s NFL prospects, everybody knows he’s got a big decision to make, which he’ll — he, his family, anybody else that he wants involved will sit down and visit once the season comes to an end. He’s in a great situation. I mean, the guy is already the ninth overall pick in the Major League Baseball draft, and I think he’ll probably be somewhere around the same spot if he chooses to go football-wise. I realize those — there’s a lot that goes into that, what teams are selecting, what their needs are, but we just had a guy go first overall the year before, and I think this guy is that kind of impact player, and certainly a rare athlete, one of those that you very well may go through the rest of your career coaching and never have one like that again. I mean, he’s that unique. He’s either going to be a Major League Baseball star or he’s going to be a Pro Bowler, he just needs to decide which one. Maybe both,” Riley said.
From leading his team to a College Football Playoff berth and winning the Heisman Trophy, Murray says he is still not done.
“There’s a lot of highlights. It’s been a fun year. But for me, like I said, I’m not a satisfied guy, so for me, it’s — the highlight would be winning a National Championship,” he said.