Welcome back to another edition of our 2019 Countdown to Kickoff series! Don’t look now, but we’ve officially entered single digits! With nine days remaining until the Oklahoma Sooners open the season against the Houston Cougars on Sept. 1, I want to take this opportunity to look back on the first two seasons for OU’s starting MIKE LB, Kenneth Murray Jr.
Coming out of Elkins High School in Missouri City, Texas as part of Oklahoma’s 2017 recruiting class, Kenneth Murray showed up doing all the right things on and off the field. His natural maturity mixed with his freakish athleticism made it impossible for the coaches to keep him off the field (although a thin depth chart certainly helped matters). In turn, he was tabbed a Day One starter at one of the most difficult positions on the defense, and he hasn’t looked back since.
In fact, Murray has started in all 28 games of his career, making him the only Sooner on the current roster to have started in every OU game since the 2017 season kicked off. Following the conclusion of his freshman campaign, he was named co-Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year and a Freshman All-American by the FWAA and USA Today.
On the field, Murray has been statistically noteworthy. He went through quite a learning curve as a freshman, but he nearly doubled up his 78 tackle output in ‘17 with 155 in ‘18. Part of what makes him so great is that he’s one of the faster players you’ll see in all of college football at his position, but that’s certainly not for lack of size. At 6’2” and 243 pounds, he’ll lay the boom as well as anybody.
Of course, all players have strengths and weaknesses, and Murray had his share of issues with gap discipline as well as pass coverage. Part of the latter comes with playing in the Big 12, where the best receivers and the toughest mismatches are simply part of the territory. After struggling in that area as a freshman, he took a step forward as a sophomore, and there’s no doubt he intends on making yet another leap as the 2019 season approaches.
After amassing 233 total tackles, 20 tackles-for-loss, 5.5 sacks, two pass breakups and a forced fumble in two years, Murray was any easy choice to make the Butkus and Nagurski Award watch lists earlier this offseason. In July, he was also chosen by the media to earn Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors.
Another watch the junior linebacker made last month was for the Wuerffel Award in recognition of his exemplary efforts and presence in the community. Speaking to the kind of young man Kenneth Murray is off the field, a story of him aiding to a woman’s rescue on the side of the road came out weeks after the reported act. Not even his own father knew about what happened until most everyone else did. Check out the link below from OU Daily’s Caleb McCourry to find out more about this incredible story.
With that act of heroism standing as a perfect example of who he is, you’ll never hear Kenneth Murray talk about himself before his team. There’s a reason he was named a team captain in 2018, and it’s the same reason he’ll likely take on that role once again this fall. Fortunately, the rest of us can talk all about him and how valuable he is to the Oklahoma Sooners. And in just nine days, we can all watch him ball.
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