Ask him and he’ll tell you.
Since the end of last season, sophomore middle linebacker Kenneth Murray said he has watched the Rose Bowl against Georgia a staggering 128 times.
For fans of college football, last season’s epic College Football Playoff semifinal in Pasadena will go down as one of the most entertaining postseason contests of all time. For fans of the Oklahoma Sooners, the game will be remembered as one of the most heartbreaking losses — or perhaps the most heartbreaking loss.
Those memories from New Year’s Day are just as painful for Murray, but for slightly different reasons. Murray takes full responsibility for the outcome of that game. More than that, Murray takes criticism of the Sooners’ defense personally.
“Everything that has been said about the defense, I take it so personal,” said Murray at Big 12 Media Days. “It might not be something that’s my fault, I’ll still take it personal, because at the end of the day I feel like it’s all going to fall back on me.”
“If our defense is not stellar, I’m taking it personally. That’s my fault.”— Lee Benson (@LeeBensonNews9) July 17, 2018
-Kenneth Murray on Lincoln Riley calling him the “heart of the defense” and his motivation to improve that side of the ball #Sooners pic.twitter.com/cNzleU5Mu5
The MIKE linebacker is often regarded as the quarterback of the defense, and with Murray it rings true. Though he’s only entering his second season, his attitude resembles that of a much older veteran, and his teammates feed off of that.
It’s also safe to say Murray is a straight-up film-room junkie at this point. The co-Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year is obsessed with finding the weak spots in his game through film study in order to fine-tune himself on the field.
“I feel like last year I false-stepped way too much”, Murray said of his freshman season. “Every play I feel like I false-stepped. This year, I’ve taken into account really getting my footwork right, really focusing on not false-stepping, so once I take the right step, I can turn a regular tackle into a tackle for loss.”
Murray also noted his focus on using his hands to shed blocks. If Murray has indeed improved on all the areas he mentioned, it’s scary to think about what the Freshman All-American might do from here on out.
Motivation will never be a problem for Kenneth Murray. After K-9 revealed the astounding number of times he has watched the gut-wrenching Rose Bowl, he was asked if he’s finally done re-watching it.
“If I see something on TV that makes me mad, I’ll go watch it again.”
It’s apparent Murray has high hopes for the defense. As the heartbeat on that side of the ball, Murray takes ownership of last year’s struggles, but he’s also optimistic about the potential for future greatness.
“I’m not about to beat around the bush. At times, we didn’t play good last year”, Murray said of the Oklahoma defense. “We were up and down too much, so I feel like that’s why there’s optimism, but I feel like we’re on track to getting that fixed and I feel like we’re on track to being a dominant defense.”
A lot was made about the decision to start Murray at middle linebacker to open the season. The lack of depth at the position was highlighted by the fact that a true freshman was the No. 1 option, but it also spoke about Murray’s natural ability, given his initial unfamiliarity to his new role. Murray was asked about how he made the transition from being more of an outside player throughout his football career to moving inside.
“It definitely was tough, because like I said before many times, I never played MIKE before in my life.”
“Every play I’m either hitting a 300-pound lineman or I’m hitting a 200-pound running back. So it’s definitely different, and mentally-wise, it was definitely different because you go from being a player that just plays to being a player that you’re relied upon for a whole lot more.”
Among all the things Murray should be proud of after a breakout freshman campaign, Murray takes the most pride in his preparation. Kenneth Murray is unique in that he’s not only physically gifted, he’s also cerebral. On top of that, the young man’s dedication to preparation is off the charts. If he holds an advantage over his opponent from a mental and a physical standpoint, the sky is the limit on how much he can achieve.
“I kind of pride myself on being a Luke Kuechly type guy, a guy who 40 percent of the time he knows exactly what play is coming. Trying to be like that, it’s tough, but watching a lot of tape definitely helps.”
Kenneth Murray at Big 12 Media Days! #SoonersPosted by Crimson And Cream Machine on Monday, July 16, 2018
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