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Would Lincoln Riley Really Not Start Kyler Murray?

At Big 12 Media Days, Lincoln Riley was reluctant to name Kyler Murray the starting quarterback even though Murray put his baseball career on hold to return to the Sooners.

If Lincoln Riley’s statements at Big 12 Media Days are to be believed, the Sooner’s quarterback race is still wide open.

“Kyler is not the quarterback yet,” coach Riley said on how the offense with Murray under center. “There is good competition going on and Kyler is going to have to fight like crazy to win this job.”

But that cannot possibly be true, can it? There is no way Riley would encourage Murray to put his baseball career on hold without naming him the starter, is there?

“It’s a different competition. It’s very different, both have been Baker’s backups in the last two years and they’ve been in multiple years and they’re both ready to be the starting quarterback at Oklahoma.

They have different skill sets than Baker, there are some things that Baker did better than these guys and things that these guys do better than Baker did. That’s always the job.”

Some back story; one of the Sooner’s biggest story lines this summer was whether or not Murray would return to Norman. And when he was drafted by the Oakland Athletics with the 9th overall pick, it looked like he was all but headed to the Major League. After all, he was presented with exactly 4.7 million reasons to leave, and that’s a whole lot of reasons.

However, Riley remained confident that Murray would return this fall.

“Everybody else has been a lot more worried about it than me,” Riley said leading up to the MLB Draft. “I haven’t lost one night of sleep on it, so I apologize if anyone else has.

“I knew the deal getting into it. When he first decided to leave A&M we had very candid conversations with him and his family about it. They have lived up to their word — every part of it. I have no doubt they’ll continue to do so and I think they’d say the same about us.”

And coach Riley was right. Shortly after being drafted, Murray confirmed that he will return to the Sooners this fall; putting his contract on hold until after the season at which point Murray will head off to the A’s.

And by all accounts, all parties are happy with his decision. The A’s put out a statement saying they look forward to being Oklahoma fans for a year, and playing football seems important to Murray. He didn’t sit on the bench just to leave when he’s set to take over the reigns.

This is not an article questioning Murray’s decision. If he wants to play football, more power to him. We look forward to see him on the field this fall. This isn’t about Murray’s decision, it’s about coach Riley’s.

Here is the hard truth of the situation: right now, Murray doesn’t have much of a shot at the next level in football. He’s under-sized and unproven. The MLB also offers more money. So much so that the average MLB player makes twice as much as the average NFL player. And then there’s the threat of injury to consider.

Murray is risking quite a bit, and for what?

For only a chance to play; if he’s not beat out by Austin Kendall?

It seems crazy, but it seems like Riley isn’t ready to name a starter. Is he simply playing coy to keep FAU guessing? Is he reluctant to name Murray the starter in fear that Austin Kendall may decide to transfer? Or is there really a QB competition in Norman? We’ll let you decide.

“I think the most important thing or at least most important thing early for us is let’s make sure we get the right guy, put them through this competition and test these guys. Let’s really put them through it because we’ve got two guys that are more than capable of getting this team where we need to be.

“Yeah, I mean, they’re definitely different. Austin is a great pocket passer, very, very smooth, he’s really good with his progressions. He has really progressed in a lot of ways there and he’s a sneaky good athlete. He’s not as flashy of an athlete as Kyler is, but he’s got enough athleticism to hurt people and make people pay. Kyler’s athleticism jumps off the screen pretty quickly. You don’t see that often in his position, but kind of like Austin, he’s a better thrower than he gets credit for. Both guys have the skill set to run it, not only when you talk about tailoring an offense to a quarterback’s strengths, sometimes you’re talking physical strengths.

“But a lot of times it’s mental strength. What do they process, what do they like, what is their thought process, their mind-set so there is a lot more that goes into it besides how well do they throw it, how fast do they run.”

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