Murray, Sooners Dazzle on Pro Day
NORMAN – When it comes to 2018 Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray, seeing is believing.
NFL scouts only got to see Murray throw during Oklahoma's Pro Day on Wednesday. But in the eyes of Sooners coach Lincoln Riley, for Murray to do anything more than pass would have been pointless.
“It doesn't make sense for him to run and do all those things,” Riley said afterward. “Not that everybody can do this, but he's athletically so far beyond anything in this game and anything in that league at the (quarterback) position there's just honestly not that much point to it. His quickness and speed, I think the (game) tapes can speak for themselves. There really wasn't anything for him to gain doing that today.”
Told Riley's remarks, Murray cracked a smile and said, “I wouldn't disagree, but I'll let him say that.”
Murray attended the NFL Combine last month. His body was measured and he did interviews, but he did not throw or run. “I felt amazing leaving the combine,” Murray said. “I felt every meeting I had went well. I had fun with it and it was a great experience.”
Wednesday was the first time he showed a skill set live. “I thought it went well,” Murray said calmly. “It was fun to actually do something.”
Murray said he opted to concentrate solely on throwing rather than risk pulling a muscle in the 40-yard dash, shuttle drills, broad jump, vertical jump and bench press held earlier in OU's Pro Day. “I'm pretty confident in my abilities as far as running,” said the fleet-footed Murray, who added he would expect to run the 40-yard dash in 4.3 seconds.
Other Sooners to partake in Wednesday's audition were defensive tackle Amani Bledsoe, linebacker Curtis Bolton, fullback/tight end Carson Meier, kicker Austin Seibert, running back Marcellas Sutton, receiver Myles Tease, plus the offensive line quartet of Cody Ford, Bobby Evans, Dru Samia and Ben Powers. Wide receiver Marquise Brown (recovering from left foot surgery) and running back Rodney Anderson (knee) were on hand, but did not participate.
Murray took center stage in front of a hushed gathering of roughly 300 people inside the Everest Training Center that included 75 NFL scouts, 100 media members, 70 family members, plus OU coaches, officials and numerous former players.
Murray impressed onlookers with the velocity and touch on his passes. Jake Trotter of ESPN.com had Murray completing 61 of 67 passes with one drop while throwing to a hodge-podge of receivers that included Meier, redshirt sophomore wide receiver Charleston Rambo, former players Geno Lewis and Jarvis Baxter, plus Southwestern University invite Joel Blumenthal.
Murray had only two days to work with the group. “Considering the limited prep for it, it was pretty damn sharp,” Riley said.
Murray, who was the No. 9 overall pick by the Oakland A's in last June's amateur baseball draft, has spent the past month working with former NFL quarterback and new XFL coach/general manager Jim Zorn. Murray said he has upcoming workouts scheduled with “at least a couple” of NFL teams that he did not identify.
Asked what it is that makes Murray so captivating, Riley said, “The whole story. It's kind of a movie script almost. ... He goes to being a Top-10 pick – most likely here – in two different leagues, which is just stupid. That's just unheard of. You can't even dream that up. Plus, there's the way he's just handled it all.”
Riley said reaction from the scouts on hand was “super complimentary.”
Again, with Murray, seeing is believing.
“There are quite a few people there that haven't seen him throw live before,” Riley said. “You get a perception in your mind of what you think it's going to be like and then you see it in person. It was a very, very, very strong performance. No question about it. You can go travel to any Pro Day you want to, you're not going to see another throwing performance like that.”
OU PRO DAY NOTEBOOK
Getting His Kicks
As impressive as Murray was throwing the ball at OU's Pro Day, Austin Seibert was equally impressive kicking the ball – perhaps even moreso.
Seibert easily converted field goals from 35 yards on out, consistently nailing the “OU” logo in the championship banner hanging high on the wall beyond the goalpost inside the Everest Training Center. He nailed a 55-yarder after running onto the field with the play clock winding down.
Seibert also boomed his kickoffs well into the end zone. On his final attempt, Seibert launched his kickoff high into the rafters, at which time half-a-dozen NFL scouts quickly lined up to introduce themselves and shake his hand.
This came on the heels of Seibert having an impressive showing at the NFL Combine two weeks ago.
“Couldn't really ask for much better, just making kicks and hoping people like what I'm doing out there on the field,” said Seibert, who ranks first in FBS history in career points (499) and career extra points made (310). “I was happy with my performance at the combine and today.”
Though Seibert handled the placekicking, punting and kickoff duties with the Sooners, he is focused on placekicking and kickoffs for NFL scouts rather than punting.
“Honestly, it was a pretty easy decision,” Seibert said. “My stature, my height. I'm not an NFL punter. I'm not 6-foot-4. I don't have those big, long levers. I'm more explosive and a compact guy. I'm shorter and more explosive, so that's a field-goal kicker.”
As for whether Seibert might get drafted, “For kickers, it doesn't matter if you get drafted or if you're a free agent,” Seibert said. “You're going to have a position battle. Punting in the NFL is more for an emergency type deal (for me). If someone goes down, that's when I'll come in to play. Everyone wants me to kick field goals and kick off.”
Linebacker Curtis Bolton overcame injuries throughout his career, but finally got a chance to shine last season and ranked second on the team and third in the Big 12 at 9.9 tackles per game.
Bolton impressed throughout Wednesday's workout with the highest vertical jump (38 inches). He also had the second-best marks in the broad jump (9 feet, 11 inches), the 40-yard dash (4.53), the 20-yard shuttle (4.36), the 3-cone drill (7.18) and the 60-yard shuttle (11.55).
“He raised some eyes,” Sooners head coach Lincoln Riley said of Bolton. “He definitely did. He wasn't on a lot of people's radar the previous years because of injuries and simply not being on the field whole lot. With his production this year he was on the radar and some of his testing numbers jumped out.”
More Than Tough Enough
Explosive wide receiver Marquise Brown injured his foot against Texas in the sixth game last season, but played through the pain the remainder of the year.
“As far as rehab, everything's still on schedule,” said a smiling Brown, who was wearing a boot on his left foot plus a diamond-studded “HOLLY5WOOD” necklace. “Everything's still going good. Been tough with my leg injury (since surgery). I couldn't do much the first three or so weeks. I couldn't work out and just now getting back into it.”
Brown said the plan is to begin running in April and May, “but I won't be fully cleared until the (rookie mini-) camp.”
Brown has been projected as a mid-first-round pick and said he will attend the first day of the NFL Draft on April 25 in Nashville.
“They (scouts) like my film, they were just wanting me to be healthy, make sure I know football and be the strongest and healthiest I can be,” Brown said. “Everyone's telling me ‘Get healthy, don't rush it.'”
Riley said Brown's toughness outweighs the time he missed on the field last season due to injury. “It's their body, it's not my body. It's their life, it's not my life," Riley said. "Their health is always going to be at the forefront of what we do. That was a hard time for him (Brown) just because he wanted to play in the game so bad. Trying to gut it out is a positive. It's not going to hurt him (in the draft) a bit.”
Rough on Rodney
Running back Rodney Anderson endured three season-ending injuries to his leg, neck and knee during his OU career and is determined to make an NFL roster despite not being able to return to the field for four more months.
“I'll definitely be 100 percent ready to go on the field in July,” an upbeat Anderson said. “(Scouts are) seeing for themselves I'm healthy and making good progress. I think I'm right where I need to be. It's a long recovery process and it's tough. As soon as I'm released to go, I'm going to hit it full speed. The mental toughness is a huge part of this process.”
Anderson continues to be closely examined by all interested parties.
“Team's got to be thorough,” he said. “They check all medical history. I just tell them straight up they're all unrelated injuries. So the tag of ‘injury prone' I feel is inappropriate. That's not what I am. It's three weird injuries that unfortunately happened to me. My mom says bad things happen in threes so I feel like I'm done.”