During spring practice, Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley said the quarterback competition was close between redshirt junior Kyler Murray and redshirt sophomore Austin Kendall.
How it now sorts out given Murray’s No. 9 overall selection by the Oakland Athletics in last week’s Major League Baseball Amateur Draft remains to be determined. Murray reportedly signed with the Athletics for around $4.6 million, which means the dual-sport Sooner star is no longer eligible to play baseball at Oklahoma, just football.
Murray’s eligibility to play football at OU is not affected by his professional status in baseball, but it most likely means he will play just this season and forgo his final season of football eligibility.
It has been rumored that the Athletics have agreed to let Murray play football at OU in the fall and begin his baseball activities after the college football season is over. He could, however, begin his professional baseball assignment on an abbreviated basis this summer, allowing him to join his Sooner football teammates when preseason practice officially begins in August.
Riley has said that he was not concerned for one minute that Murray wouldn’t return to play football in 2018, regardless of what happened in the MLB Draft. The Sooner coach had to know, though, that if Murray was a first-round pick, as some projected he would be, he probably would not complete his two seasons of eligibility to play football.
Murray and Kendall offer different styles of quarterback play. Murray is more of a dual-threat quarterback who can run or pass and is comfortable and highly capable doing either. He is also one of the fastest players on the team.
At 6-feet, 2-inches, Kendall is more of a pro-style passer, with a good football IQ, and he is very good at quickly reading defenses. Riley was actively recruiting the North Carolina native when he was the offensive coordinator at East Carolina.
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Murray and Kendall both played in the annual OU Red-White spring game in April. Kendall’s stats graded out a little better than Murrays, but not dramatically so. Kendall completed 11 of 18 passes for 134 yards and a touchdown, averaging 12.2 yards per completion. He also threw an interception.
Murray completed 11 of 21 passes for 85 yards and averaged almost eight yards per completion. He also ran nine times for 35 yards.
There is a popular saying in football: If you have a quarterback competition, you don’t have a quarterback. I don’t think that is the case at Oklahoma for 2018, but it is fairly clear that Riley likes both quarterbacks for different reasons and for the different dimensions they bring to the Sooner offense.
I do believe that Murray will draw the starting nod for the 2018 season opener on September 1 against Florida Atlantic.
Knowing that Murray will likely be one and done after the 2018 season, I would not be surprised, however, to see Kendall receive quite a bit of playing time as well this season. I don’t see it so much as a typical dual-quarterback role where both players are used interchangeably. I believe Murray will command the vast majority of the playing time, depending on his ability to stay healthy, but it will be beneficial for Kendall to gain some game experience and see what he can do, looking ahead beyond this season.
Murray’s professional future, for the time being at least, is clearly on a baseball path. My hope is that doesn’t interfere with his ability to remain totally focused and give all on the football field come this fall.
You know the Oakland A’s have to be somewhat concerned about the risk for serious injury playing football. As a Sooner fan, you just hope that Murray plays smart and within himself and plays to win, and not just to avoid injury.