Chip Kelly wouldn’t want to be the Angels’ Andrelton Simmons or any of the other infielders in the American League West who will have to deal with Kyler Murray in future seasons.
“I’d hate to have to get him in a rundown if I was a baseball player,” Kelly, UCLA’s football coach, said this week of the Oakland Athletics outfield prospect, “because I don’t know if you could because he can really move.”
Murray showed off that elusiveness last week in his “other” sport, the Oklahoma quarterback evading defenders while zigzagging across the field on a 15-yard run in which he covered about three times that distance. The two-sport standout will be Kelly’s problem on Saturday when the Bruins (0-1) face the No. 6 Sooners (1-0) at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.
Oklahoma lost a Heisman Trophy winner in quarterback Baker Mayfield and may have upgraded in Murray, the No. 9 pick in the most recent Major League Baseball draft who’s drawn comparisons to Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson. Murray is expected to begin his professional baseball career next season after agreeing to a reported $4.66-million signing bonus with the Athletics.
The dynamic talent would also be coveted by NFL teams should he opt to switch careers.
“He’s not just a runner back there,” Kelly said. “He can beat you with his arm and he’s got a bunch of talent around him, but he’s as good of an athlete as we’ll face at the quarterback spot.”
Murray’s bid to get the Sooners into the College Football Playoff for a second consecutive season started in wow-inducing fashion last weekend. He completed nine of 11 passes for 209 yards and two touchdowns in less than one half of his team’s 63-14 rout of Florida Atlantic, compiling a 301.4 passing efficiency rating that was more than 18 points higher than Mayfield’s career best.
It was Murray’s all-over-the-place run spanning nearly 16 seconds that might have been his finest moment. He eluded an unblocked defender behind the line of scrimmage and kept making others miss.
“Nothing was really going through my mind other than, make a play, honestly,” Murray, who played only sparingly last season as Mayfield’s backup, told reporters afterward. “I think that’s something I bring to the game that nobody’s really been able to see for the past couple of years.”
Murray will be facing a UCLA defense that seemed vastly improved in its opener with the exception of the second quarter, when it gave up 17 points and 159 yards on the way to a 26-17 loss to Cincinnati.
The Bruins used outside linebacker Jaelan Phillips as a spy on Bearcats quarterback Desmond Ridder in the second half in a move that helped limit his effectiveness after he had completed nine of 11 passes for 73 yards before halftime. In the second half, Ridder completed only four of 13 passes for 27 yards.
UCLA’s defenders know that Murray will present an entirely different challenge, especially when he takes off running.