With Murray, Believe it When You See It

Turf toes. Kneecaps. Hamstrings. It seems like there has been no shortage of DeMarco Murray‘s body parts conspiring to keep him out of the OU lineup.

The past two seasons, an assortment of maladies have prevented the junior running back from finishing the season with the Sooners. Most recently, surgery on his hamstring knocked Murray out of the BCS title game against Florida earlier this year. However, in an interview published in today’s Daily Oklahoman, Murray declared himself “100 percent” for the upcoming season, stating that he has no hesitations about his health.

Obviously, Homerism likes what he’s hearing from the Sooners’ talented runner. I’d caution OU fans about getting their hopes up too quickly, though.

Similar assurances were given heading into last season. Murray put up outstanding numbers, going over 1,000 yards rushing while scoring a total of 18 touchdowns. Yet, anyone who compared Number 7 of 2008 with the dynamic tailback we saw out on the field in 2007 could tell something was holding him back. Something about the way Murray ran just seemed off–not as much burst, less authority, missing his breakaway speed. His yards per carry, a good measure of explosiveness, dipped slightly from 6.0 in ’07 to 5.6 in ’08. Overall, the stats remained stellar, but his play suggested he had yet to fully shake off the lingering effects of knee surgery.

The ultimate proof came in the ’08 Red River Shootout, when the Longhorn defense bottled Murray for six yards on seven carries. It was a far cry from the electric performance Murray gave in ’07, when he went for almost 130 yards on 17 attempts, an average of 7.5 yards per carry. His first RRS appearance also produced an exhilarating third quarter touchdown run that proved to be the turning point in the game. The second time around against UT, Murray looked like a shell of his gamebreaking former self.

Murray did appear to be coming around as the ’08 season wore on. He eventually began to break off long runs, such as his 70-yard touchdown gallop versus Texas A&M. He showed off some receiving skills that were missing in his first season, catching 31 balls for 395 yards and four TDs. Also, Murray proved to be a more powerful back in short yardage than Homerism expected.

That’s all well and good, but the Sooners need a playmaker in the backfield. Especially with OU’s losses at wide receiver. As good as Murray’s running mate Chris Brown is, he’s a move-the-chains back. Murray has to be a home run hitter. After another offseason rehabbing, let’s hope he really gets his swing back.

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