When the Oklahoma Sooners line up against the West Virginia Mountaineers on Saturday, it’ll mark 1,058 days since a quarterback not named Baker Mayfield has started for the Crimson and Cream. Kyler Murray, Mayfield’s likely successor, is about to give fans a brief glimpse into the future of Oklahoma football in his first start as a Sooner. While he’s not nearly as experienced as Mayfield, there’s enough tape on him for fans to be excited about.
Murray is one of the most decorated players in the history of Texas high school football and was the No. 1 prep QB in the class of 2015. Since his transfer from Texas A&M following his freshman season, he’s been a dual-sport student athlete, splitting time between baseball and football as he’s waited his turn to enter the spotlight in Norman. It’s been a long journey in a short amount of time, but Kyler is more than capable of putting on a show this Saturday — if only for a brief moment.
Murray has appeared in five of Oklahoma’s 11 games this season, but most of his opportunities have come when the games were well in hand. In his limited appearances, the part of his game that is most distinct from Mayfield’s is his ability to run the ball. Lincoln Riley does a great job of recognizing his players’ strengths and shapes his game plan accordingly, as seen here:
This is one of the more intriguing plays you’ll see drawn up, and not one that just anybody can execute. Pitching the ball back to the QB for a designed run is something few play callers in the country have in their repertoire. Further, Murray’s elite quickness allows Riley to utilize other parts of his playbook, which keeps the Sooners’ offense both creative and effective.
Now you may be asking yourself, “Running the ball is fine and dandy, but what can he do through the air?” Well given that Murray has yet to throw a pass in a game (this season) that was still in question, you may have to wait until Saturday for any amount of hard evidence. However, there is enough game film on Murray to know two things: he has tons of arm strength and he is accurate.
On the season, Kyler Murray has completed 16 of 19 pass attempts (84.2%) for 307 yards and two touchdowns. Those stats are quite outstanding, but again, it all came against lesser competition in mop-up time. That being said, there is something to be taken away from his handful of passes. Against Tulane, Murray showed that there won’t be any kind of drop-off in arm strength with Baker off the field.
What I love most about this play is that Murray effortlessly throws the ball well over 50 yards. Not only that, but Murray’s pass is right on the money, allowing Marquise Brown to maintain his stride and cruise in for the touchdown. With this kind of arm talent taking over in the future, the Sooners’ deep ball isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Speaking of precision, while the bomb to Brown was an accurate ball, it doesn’t quite showcase the full extent of Murray’s prowess as a passer. If you want a preview of what Murray is capable of, recall the Kansas game. Kyler completed this perfect pass to veteran wide receiver Jeffery Mead:
The ball placement Kyler exhibited on this play is phenomenal. The pass is thrown to Mead’s outside shoulder and comes down only where Mead can make a play on it. The defender is also helpless in this situation as the ball is too far ahead for him to recover or interrupt the connection. I fully expect Lincoln Riley to dial up more plays likes this while Murray is in the game on Saturday.
So now that everybody knows Kyler Murray will be starting this weekend, the question becomes “how long before Baker Mayfield returns to the field?” Will it be after one series, or two? Will Murray play through the first quarter? In my opinion, I think Riley will stick with Kyler for at least a drive or two, no matter if the Sooners are moving the ball or not. Kyler Murray has the tools and familiarity to run this offense, and I can’t wait to see what he’ll do with this short opportunity.
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