When one thinks about the Oklahoma Sooners, they think of explosive offenses with deadly-accurate quarterbacks and unbelievably talented receivers. That has been the norm developed under Lincoln Riley since 2015. But, with the hire of Alex Grinch and defensive staff, Oklahoma suddenly was able to bare the fruits of recruiting labor with intense coaching. No player on the roster for Lincoln Riley personifies the polishing of a recruited gem more than MIKE linebacker Kenneth Murray— an athletic, bulky, speedy juggernaut.
Kenneth Murray’s Story
A year after Oklahoma had experienced some of its worst defense (a season that saw Lincoln Riley let his own defensive coordinator go after a complete failure in the Cotton Bowl) a surprise player was named Pre-Season Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. To understand why it was a bit of a surprise at the time, we have to reverse.
Murray was rated a three-star recruit by 247Sports and was slotted to play outside linebacker wherever he committed. Murray had a total of 23 offers from teams like Michigan, Texas, Texas A&M, Nebraska and plenty others, but the decision was between the Sooners and the Ole Miss Rebels. With a frame of 6’3, 225 lbs., how could you not be intrigued by a Texan that had already been a first-team OLB selection for his district?
Murray stepped onto campus expecting to play outside linebacker, as that was how he was recruited and sold on the Sooners — he would be hunting quarterbacks for a living. Well, during that offseason the then-presumptive starter at MIKE Linebacker, Jon Michael Terry, came down with an injury. A position razor-thin and wildly inexperienced with only two upperclassmen, Emmanuel Beal and Curtis Bolton, Murray became a starter for a team thirsting for any sort of defense reminiscent of the early-to-late 2000’s. He would also become the first true freshman to start at middle linebacker for the Crimson & Cream since Daryl Hunt did so in 1975.
In his true freshman campaign, no other game brought more scorn his way than the Rose Bowl vs the Georgia Bulldogs, and it forever bound his mind and body to becoming a far greater player than he had been previously.
Fast forward to his junior year under the tutelage of new inside linebackers coach coach Brian Odom, beloved by Kenneth for helping him ascend his game from known athletic freak to second-team AFCA All-American, third-team AP All-American, first team-Big 12 All-American, as well as a semifinalist for the Butkus Award, Bednarik Award and the Lott IMPACT Trophy. He finished his three-year career with 335 tackles and 37 tackles for loss, — tied for 11th in school history in career tackles (ninth among linebackers) — and ranks eighth at OU in career sacks by a linebacker with 9.5. Murray also leaves the University of Oklahoma with the record of tackles in a game, as he blasted past familiar names like Brian Bosworth and Jackie Shipp while recording 28 tackles against Army.
Murray ran an unofficial 4.52 in the 40 yard dash, a blazing speed for any linebacker. NFL analyst Lance Zierlein said of Murray: “Sleek, playmaking linebacker with chiseled frame and long arms. Murray’s game is predicated on speed with an ability to fly around from sideline to sideline rolling up tackles. While his twitchy burst allows him to make more plays than the average linebacker, he will overflow to ball-carriers at times. Murray has hit-or-miss qualities and is more splashy than consistent, but he’s immensely talented with the ability to imprint on games on all three downs.”
One of the more impressive things from Kenneth during the NFL Combine was his interview:
"Certain prospects meet with teams at the Combine and leave an incredible impression. @OU_Football LB @KennethMurray did that and then some. He's an incredible player, leader, and person. One team told me he's a 10-year starter and a 'franchise cornerstone'."- @PSchrags pic.twitter.com/XgDy54Llbj— GMFB (@gmfb) March 2, 2020
In the majority of mock drafts, Kenneth Murray is a first-round selection. NFL’s Chad Reuter, SI’s Kevin Hanson, and CBS Sports’ Josh Edwards have the talented linebacker being drafted at 15, 28, and 18, respectively. Meanwhile, Dave Birkett has Murray being selected at 28 while Walter Football projects him at 19.
Kenneth Murray Highlights