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Recruiting Demarco Murray
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OU eyeing top prospect from Las Vegas
When Oklahoma hits the field in 2006, the Sooners will do so with a depth chart that doesnâ€™t paint a pretty picture at running back. It may be hard to believe, but Adrian Peterson and Jacob Gutierrez will be the lone returning scholarship backs to begin the season.
As much exposure and notoriety as Peterson has brought to OUâ€™s program, he has made it harder for running backs coach Cale Gundy to collect much quality depth at that position. The Sooners have seen highly recruited players like Tashard Choice and Courtney Tennial transfer after realizing Petersonâ€™s rise to national acclaim created a bleak forecast for competing running backs in the system.
D.J. Wolfe, another promising backup who was simply too talented to sit behind Peterson, is now making an impact in the defensive secondary. Petersonâ€™s emergence also chased away top recruiting prospects a year ago, and his highly publicized feats cast a large shadow over the college football landscape, and an even bigger shadow over the recruiting world.
Having one of the best freshman running backs in the history of college football hasnâ€™t been good for the recruiting business at Oklahoma, at least in the immediate past.
But the Sooners can see the light at the end of the tunnel as the 2006 recruiting class begins to take shape. Peterson is a good bet to enter the NFL after his junior season, meaning running backs across the country are starting to see a future at Oklahoma once again.
One such player is Demarco Murray, a 6-foot, 183-pound, five-star running back from Las Vegasâ€™ Bishop Gorman High School.
Murray, the nationâ€™s top-rated all-purpose running back according to Rivals.com, appears to fit nicely into Oklahomaâ€™s offense, with or without Adrian Peterson. He is a multi-talented back capable of running and catching the football with equal effectiveness.
A dangerous combination of speed and agility, Murray was clocked at 4.37 in the 40 this summer at USC, and heâ€™s even drawing comparisons to another highly publicized running back from that school.
â€śDemarco is as close to a Reggie Bush-type player that youâ€™re going to find in this yearâ€™s class,â€ť said Rivals.comâ€™s Jeremy Crabtree. â€śNot only can he run between the tackles successfully, he can take it to the outside and he can hurt you in a number of different ways. He can catch the ball out of the backfield. You can line him up at receiver. He hurts you a number of different ways.â€ť
Recruiters are salivating over Murrayâ€™s versatility. Several schools, including Oklahoma, have floated the notion of moving him all over the field.
â€ś(Oklahomaâ€™s) talking about putting me on the field at the same time as Adrian,â€ť said Murray. â€śWhether itâ€™s in the slot or back in the backfield. I can play receiver as well as running back. I know Iâ€™ll play as a slot receiver wherever I go.â€ť
And therein lies the comparison to Bush. The similarities discussed flatter the talented back.
â€śI think itâ€™s overwhelming,â€ť Murray said of the analogies. â€śHeâ€™s a great athlete with great speed and his cuts are amazing. I just think itâ€™s amazing when people mention me and him together. I think I can do some of the same things he does. If I work hard I think I can even be better.â€ť
As for the Peterson factor, Murray says his decision wonâ€™t be altered because of his presence. In fact, he has talked with Peterson on a couple of different occasions. And he believes working with Peterson can only make him a better player.
â€śI donâ€™t even look at the competition and stuff like that,â€ť said Murray. â€śI just know I have to work hard and prove to the coaches what Iâ€™m capable of doing. All I ask for is an opportunity to play as a freshman. Heâ€™s not scaring me away; Reggie Bush isnâ€™t scaring me away. Iâ€™m not trying to be conceited or anything like that. Iâ€™m just not afraid of competition.â€ť
Oklahoma is squarely in the mix, but the pride of Las Vegas is showing his poker face to the recruiting world.
â€śReally, my top five or top six are OU, Florida, USC, Michigan, Texas A&M and Miami. Those are my main ones at this point,â€ť said Murray.
And another team has entered the mix in the last two weeks. Steve Spurrierâ€™s South Carolina team has also become a contender for Murrayâ€™s services.
One factor in Oklahomaâ€™s favor is its familiarity with the Vegas product. His high school coach, David White, was in Norman this summer working OUâ€™s high school camps as part of the staff. Murray made the trip as well. He spent plenty of time in Norman learning the ins-and-outs of the Sooner program.
â€śI like the work ethic they have down there,â€ť said Murray. â€śCoach (Jerry) Schmidt â€” I got a chance to talk to him a little bit and I got a chance to see how hard he works and gets after it. They helped me with my work ethic and my leadership skills.â€ť
Oklahoma is also the home of Murrayâ€™s former teammate at Bishop Gorman, All-America true freshman Ryan Reynolds.
â€śIâ€™d love to play with Ryan. Heâ€™s a great friend of mine and like a big brother,â€ť Murray confessed.
But Murray also says his relationship with Reynolds wonâ€™t play a big role in swaying him toward the Sooners.
â€śHe doesnâ€™t pressure me to commit to Oklahoma or anything like that. Sometimes he says heâ€™d like for me to play with him, but he realizes itâ€™s a big decision that I have to make for myself,â€ť he said. â€śIn a way, it does (play a factor), but itâ€™s not a deciding factor. Itâ€™s not something Iâ€™ll make a decision on.â€ť
What will play a big factor in his final decision to attend a school is his relationship with college coaches. The Sooners have built a great relationship with the Bishop Gorman program over the years. It started with Reynolds, but Murray caught their eye very early on.
And OU coaches have worked to cultivate that relationship over the years.
â€śIâ€™ve gained a close relationship with Coach Gundy, Coach (Bob) Stoops and Coach (Brent) Venables,â€ť Murray said. â€śEver since I was a sophomore Iâ€™ve been talking to those guys and built a great relationship with them.
â€śIâ€™ve always said from day one that relationships are going to be one of the biggest factors wherever I go. Thatâ€™s pretty much why I like Oklahoma. I respect the coaches a lot. I just like how they treat the players and how they coach the game.â€ť
The summer camps in Norman, the relationship with Ryan Reynolds and the comfort level with the Oklahoma staff appear to give the Sooners a leg up on the competition. But Murray isnâ€™t willing to name any leaders at this point.
He insists he also feels great about his relationships with Florida, USC and Texas A&M. And rumors continue to persist that Murray is more enamored with USC and Miami, above all others.
â€śThatâ€™s not it at all,â€ť said Murray concerning those rumors. â€śI donâ€™t know where people get their information from sometimes. Everyone is on the same page right now and Iâ€™m not sure what to say about those rumors.â€ť
Murray also says he hears the rumors of loving the big city life. Itâ€™s said Norman is too small for someone from Sin City.
â€śYeah, I guess you can say that,â€ť offered Murray when asked if he was a big city guy.
But Murray also wanted to go on record to say he discounts the rumors about Norman being too small.
â€śI donâ€™t really see that as a factor,â€ť he said. â€śI donâ€™t want to go anywhere where thereâ€™s too much to do to get myself in trouble. Big city, small city, it really doesnâ€™t matter. I want to go somewhere where I can have fun and experience new things. Iâ€™m not just looking for someplace to go for fun. I want to play football and get a good education.â€ť
Murray says heâ€™ll plan two visits during his senior season and save the rest of his official visits until his senior season is complete.
As Murray puts it, â€śI donâ€™t want to get too overwhelmed because our team is chasing a state championship.â€ť
With so many visits happening after his senior season, it appears Murrayâ€™s decision will come down to the wire. And with all the rumors of USC and Miami, Murray admits he grew up with Florida as his childhood favorite.
That fixation is understandable as Bishop Gormanâ€™s uniforms are almost a perfect replica of the Gatorsâ€™.
â€śI just think I have a lot more things to look at with each school,â€ť Murray said. â€śI want to see how they do this year. I just have to make a great decision. Iâ€™m going to spend the next four years of my life at this school with these players and coaches. This is one of the biggest and most important decisions of my life so Iâ€™m gonna take all the time I have to make the right one.â€ť
Until then, Las Vegasâ€™ Murray will continue to wear his poker face. Right now, he seems poised for the World Series of Poker, because even with so many factors leaning in OUâ€™s direction, no oneâ€™s been able to get a read on the where the nationâ€™s top all-purpose running back is going to go.
(Editor's Note: Sooner Spectator features recruiting articles like this one in each of its weekly issues during the football season.)