NORMAN, Okla. — The next quarterback at Oklahoma will be decided solely on talent and ability to lead the team. Kyler Murray and Austin Kendall are judged on those abilities every minute of the day.
They have gargantuan shoes to fill, having to follow what Baker Mayfield did the previous three seasons. It’s going to be a tough act to follow.
Fans will get a peak when the Sooners wrap up spring practice with the spring game on Saturday. But if you talk to current high school players in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, they view Murray as someone with the same ability and tenacity as his predecessor.
That was easy to see in late December. Allen (Texas) High School faced Lake Travis (Texas) High School in the Class 6A-1 state title game at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Allen, a perennial power in the Lone Star State, was on the verge of another state title. After the final seconds ticked away, players, students, parents and fans mobbed the field. Murray was there as well. He led the Eagles to three straight state title from 2012-14. To many of those there, it was like he never left.
Murray signed autographs and took pictures with kids as Allen celebrated. At the time, Murray was Oklahoma’s backup quarterback.
“It’s always been like that,” Oklahoma left tackle and Murray’s high school teammate Bobby Evans said. “There are so many people that know who he is. It’s always been like that.”
For Oklahoma, Kyler Murray was worth the wait
High school players and coaches memories of Murray are vivid. State titles don’t come easy. Murray won three of them with the Eagles, compiling a 42-0 record as starting quarterback.
When he was making his decision where to go in the fall of 2014 and winter of 2015, it was national news. But it was chronicled daily throughout Texas. His final three schools were Texas A&M, Texas and Oklahoma.
When he chose the Aggies, that figured to be a shot in the arm to a program that has stumbled since Johnny Manziel’s Heisman Trophy-winning season in 2012.
Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley had just been named the Sooners’ offensive coordinator in January of 2015 — about three weeks before National Signing Day. Murray was one of the first calls.
The Sooners also got the first call when Murray elected to leave Texas A&M after his freshman season.
“It happened fast,” Riley said. “There wasn’t any courting each other either way. It was, ‘Do you wanna come?’ ‘Yeah, I wanna come.’ Let’s get the paperwork going. They were true to their word.
“We’d already started to build a relationship when I got there that January before. I think if we’d had a few more works we might have gotten him before he ever went to A&M. The timing just wasn’t right. We’d already started to build a relationship. He got to see what we were doing that year offensively. I think that confirmed some of the things he thought we would do here and how he would fit.”
Riley knew he was getting an elite quarterback who is a dynamic runner. Last season, Murray completed 85.7 percent of his passes (18 for 21), threw 3 touchdowns and rushed for 142 yards on just 14 attempts.
Can Kyler Murray become a recruiting pied-piper?
One of the 2019 recruits who will be on an official visit to Norman this weekend is 4-star receiver Theo Wease. He is also a star at Allen High School. Wease remembers meeting Murray when he was in the seventh grade and catching passes from him prior to games and practices.
“They call him the GOAT at Allen,” Wease said. “He’s still a big deal.”
You don’t have to be from Allen to understand that.
“When you win three straight championships, everyone pays attention. I haven’t heard of anybody else doing that.” 2020 Duncanville (Texas) quarterback Ja’Quinden Jackson told DieHards.
Between official and unofficial recruits and 2019 and 2020 prospects, the Sooners expect to have more than 30 potential future players in Norman this weekend. Many of them are from Texas. Many of them have thought about playing with Murray.
Riley said that doesn’t factor into his decision about who Oklahoma’s next starting quarterback will be. He pointed out that third-string quarterback and walk-on Tanner Schafer never lost a game while leading Canadian (Texas) High to consecutive state titles.
But his reputation isn’t on the level of Murray’s.
“It’s a factor in recruiting,” Riley said. Guys know who he is and guys want to play with him. It hasn’t been a factor with everybody, but it has been with some.”
The Sooners hope to reap those benefits this year and beyond.