Lincoln Riley didn’t shock the world on Wednesday afternoon when he announced that Kyler Murray would be the starting quarterback for the 2018 football season. It was announcement that just about everyone expected to hear and it was absolutely the right decision.
That’s not a disparaging remark at all towards Austin Kendall. The redshirt sophomore put up a heck of a position battle with Murray. The length and depth of the position battle was something that no one, including Lincoln Riley, expected.
“It was really a great competition between Austin and him (Murray), one that we carried on longer than maybe even we expected because of how well both guys played,” Oklahoma’s head coach said. “There weren’t a lot of differentiating factors in the end because both did play so well and so efficiently, but just felt like from an overall perspective that Kyler was just a little bit ahead.”
When Murray couldn’t separate himself from Kendall in the spring, it was allegedly because Murray was also playing baseball for the Sooners at the time. Now, that the competition went deep into the summer, it’s safe to say that Oklahoma has two solid quarterbacks.
“We feel like we’ve got a great quarterback tandem there and we’re really proud of the way that Austin has improved through the redshirt year last year and during camp,” Riley said. “We’re excited for Kyler and his opportunity and the team looks forward to getting ready for FAU.”
Oklahoma fans should be excited as well because one of the most dynamic players in the nation was just named as their starting quarterback, and the guy behind him is pretty dang good.
With Murray and Kendall basically running neck-and-neck through the spring and summer, the decision had to be made so that the team could begin to focus fully now on Florida Atlantic.
There are two key factors, in my opinion, that elevated Murray to the starting position and thus making it the correct decision for the program. The first of those is age. When most things are equal, there’s something to be said about age and experience. Murray, who just turned 21 this month, has been around college football for a while. Four years ago he started three games, and played in eight, as a true freshman at Texas A&M. Kendall was a senior in high school at the time and while they’ve both improved vastly over that time but you just can’t overlook the value of an extra year of collegiate experience.
The second reason is Murray’s explosiveness. In Murray’s only start as a Sooner he led the team on a two-play 70-yard scoring drive. Murray accounted for 66 of those yards on the very first play from scrimmage.
Lincoln Riley has established himself as one of the leading offensive minds in the game of college football. Can you imagine what he can do with a player of Murray’s skill set? In seven game appearances last season he completed 85% of his pass attempts and averaged 7.1 per rush attempt. Sure, it was a limited sample size but impressive nonetheless.
It just isn’t that Murray himself is electric, it’s that he’s surrounded by electric players. Marquise Brown is the only player on the offense faster than Murray. He averaged a team-high 19.2 yards per reception in 2017 and will be on a lot of NFL draft boards next spring. Brown was complimented by an exceptional freshman campaign from CeeDee Lamb who averaged 17.5 yards per reception. The duo teamed up for 14 combined touchdowns with seven each.
Running backs Rodney Anderson and Trey Sermon averaged 6.2 and 6.1 yards per carry respectively. The duo combined for 18 touchdowns in 2017, with Anderson being responsible for 13 of them.
This is an experienced Oklahoma offense that needs an experienced quarterback at the helm to make it extremely dangerous, and that is exactly the reason Kyler Murray is the right choice.