NORMAN, Okla. — Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley compared quarterback Kyler Murray’s ability to go from resting to competing like that of a cagey hound.
On Monday, he flew around the Sooners’ practice field like a blue-jersey wearing blur, running the backup offense. Hard to believe a few weeks ago he was in baseball mode.
Murray said playing the Cape Cod League was an experience that will help him in the long run.
“It was a good experience for me. It humbled me a little bit in ways. But the baseball part was lovely,” he said. “Had a great time, saw the best of the best pitchers in the world in the collegiate ranks. It was a great experience for sure.”
— John Shinn (@john_shinn) August 7, 2017
Murray, who is battling sophomore Austin Kendall for the backup quarterback spot, spent most of June and part of July playing baseball every day and sleeping in the basement at the home of Cape Cod League luminary Barbara Ellsworth.
Most of the league’s players stay with host families during their time. Ellsworth has hosted players each summer since 1978.
“She’s a legend in the Cape League,” Murray said. “Like I said, it was a good experience.”
For Murray, baseball took him outside of his local comfort zone for one of the few times.
“The closest mall was 40 minutes away from me. Stuff like that. I was really like taken out of my element because I’m from, you know, down south where the closest Chick-fil-A is two minutes away. Stuff like that,” he said. “Having to find a way to do things, travel around and getting used to different elements and preparing me for the things ahead.”
Mykel Jones stepping up
There’s always a freshman that catches the coaching staff’s attention in early preseason practices. Last season, it was slot receiver Mykel Jones.
But Jones’ season-long production didn’t match the early expectations, as he finished his freshman year with 13 receptions in 12 games.
The former 4-star recruit believes 2017 will be different. Jones shot to the top of the slot receiver depth chart after Nick Basquine sustained a season-ending Achilles injury in his left foot.
“I’ve gotta step up,” Jones said on Monday. “What I take from that is learning. Nick did a lot of great things. He gave me the opportunity to put a lot of things in my arsenal, like route-running and being able to catch the ball in tight situations. A lot of things Nick did I learned from.”
The Sooners expected Jones to have an increased role this season before Basquine’s injury. The pair rotated at inside receiver last season. Basquine picked up the starts when Oklahoma opened in four-receiver sets.
Inside receivers coach Cale Gundy hopes Jones embraces the increased responsibility.
“Mykel knows that it’s gonna be his,” the coach said. “Maybe it creates a little bit more edge to you a little bit because you know you have to be the guy. You can’t depend on someone. Sometimes there are little things like that make a big, big difference. He’s always been a competitor and hard worker, but I’ve seen some things in the last two or three days that make me feel good about that.”
Enjoying the cooler climate
The temperature has been unseasonably cool in Norman since preseason practice began. The high temperature on Monday — 82 degrees — was about 10 degrees below the early August average.
“It’s great. It’s great, especially for the big guys,” offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh said. “It’s cool, nice breeze every now and then, so not getting worn out. We only practice once a day, so they shouldn’t be getting worn out anyway, but it’s nice to come out here in this type of weather.”
Quarterback Baker Mayfield has worn a hoodie with cut-off sleeves during the Sooners’ practices. He said the cooler temperatures influenced his wardrobe choice.
“It gets a little sweat in. I’m not running as much as the other guys. I want it to feel like it’s camp for me, too,” Mayfield said. “We’ve been fortunate; it’s been a mild camp so far. Temperatures have been very easy on us. I thought I would break a little extra sweat.”
Bob Stoops visits practice
As Oklahoma’s practice neared its end on Monday, a visitor strolled to his car. Former coach Bob Stoops didn’t need to hang around to watch his former players stretch.
Stoops attended part of practice for at least the third time since the preseason began last week.