Oklahoma Finds Another Playmaker At Tailback

Saturday, April 7th 2007, 6:13 pm
By: News On 6

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) -- With Adrian Peterson headed to the NFL, it didn't take long for another playmaking tailback to emerge at Oklahoma.

Redshirt freshman DeMarco Murray played a starring role in his third straight scrimmage on Saturday, piling up 103 yards on only four carries in the Sooners' spring game.

Murray scored on an 18-yard run on his first carry and later darted around defenders for a 68-yard gain that set up another touchdown.

"I'm not trying to fill anybody's shoes or nothing like that. Adrian Peterson was the guy, probably one of the greatest players to ever play here," Murray said. "He's a good guy. I learned a lot from him.

"We're just moving on. All the backs, we all have different styles. We're just trying to play hard, work hard and carry the team."

Murray totaled 327 yards and 4 touchdowns on 29 carries in the three spring scrimmages, averaging a whopping 11.3 yards. He had at least one run 65 yards or longer in each outing.

"I'm always looking for the big play. I'm always try to make something happen," Murray said. "Sometimes it's not there, and I mess up here and there. I think I've got to just calm down sometimes and get the two yards or three yards instead of trying to look for the home run all the time.

"I'm still working on it. I'm still young, but I'm getting there."

With his impressive spring, Murray has pushed his way into Oklahoma's tailback picture with Allen Patrick and Chris Brown, who split time in the backfield while Peterson was recovering from a broken collarbone last season.

Patrick, who started four times last season and finished with 761 yards and 4 touchdowns, was slowed by a hip pointer this spring. He fumbled on his first carry Saturday, prompting Stoops to say, "He's played too much football to drop the ball as he did."

At this point, Stoops expects Patrick, Brown and Murray all to get playing time -- with Murray likely to be featured at wide receiver too.

"We're going to split them up, give them opportunities to stay fresh, stay fast, and I think that's going to be good for us," Stoops said.

In winter testing, Murray recorded the team's best 40-yard dash time at 4.43 seconds and backed that up on the field in spring practice, which continues through Tuesday.

"He's a talented guy that really just has a knack for making plays. He's a great worker, he has a great attitude," Stoops said. "He would have played last year but he had a turf toe that really kept him out three-fourths of the season by the time he was back to full speed. We're excited about him. He's going to give us a big boost."

Because of the injury and Peterson's presence, Murray redshirted last season after arriving in Norman out of Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas. He worked out on the scout team, and said that helped eliminate some of his shyness.

"I think I'm comfortable a lot more with the guys. I'm not timid any more," Murray said. "I think that's all out of me, and I'm just ready to play ball and have fun."

He also spent time learning from Peterson, the 2005 Heisman runner-up and a top prospect for the NFL draft later this month.

"He was the hardest worker I've ever seen. Practice, workouts, just walkthroughs, he's running hard," Murray said. "Just a good, good work ethic. I see why he is where he's at."

While saying Murray has been "the big-play guy" and the quickest of the tailbacks, offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said he sees great flexibility with how physical Brown and Patrick are when they run.

"I think everybody likes Allen, and everybody's excited about DeMarco. As a coach, I'd tell you Chris Brown is maybe the best because he goes that way (forward) all the time," Wilson said. "He's a good runner. Them other guys make the great plays, but he is just a good football player, a good runner. I think they're all good enough, you would hope and think they're all going to play."

The scrimmage did bring one injury, as tight end Brody Eldridge injured his knee after making a catch in the third quarter. Wilson said the initial diagnosis was a low-grade sprain of the medial collateral ligament.

Earlier this spring, the Sooners lost starting linebacker Ryan Reynolds to a torn lateral collateral ligament in his left knee.

Stoops said he likely wouldn't make a decision on a new starting quarterback until "sometime in August." Joey Halzle, a senior-to-be, was 7-18 for 162 yards with 1 touchdown and the day's only interception. Redshirt freshman Sam Bradford had 110 yards on 9-14 passing with 1 touchdown. Freshman Keith Nichol was 3-7 for 25 yards.

"That position has to be earned," Stoops said. "To be accepted in the locker room, to be accepted in the huddle where your guys have confidence in you, it only happens through snaps and earning it and showing you can do it."