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OU football: There's some risk with DeMarco Murray, but could be plenty of reward for Sooners

DeMarco Murray didn’t take the traditional route to get into coaching.

He didn’t toil as a graduate assistant or spend time coaching in the lower rungs of Division I or even in lower levels.

Instead, during the years when others his age who aspired to get into coaching were doing those things, Murray was starring in the NFL.

In seven seasons there, Murray ran for 7,174 yards and 49 touchdowns. Three times he made the Pro Bowl and in 2014 was the Associated Press Offensive Player of the Year and earned All-Pro honors.

Now, a little more than two seasons after playing his last NFL game, Murray is back at his alma mater as OU’s running backs coach, Sooners coach Lincoln Riley announced Monday.

“This is very surreal,” Murray said in a release. “Obviously I never thought I’d be back coaching at the place where it all started for me. Having the opportunity to come back and be among great coaches and be with some of the people I grew up with is exciting.”

Murray replaces Jay Boulware, who left earlier this month to take a job on Tom Herman’s staff at Texas.

“(Murray) has a passion for coaching and helping young men grow as players and people,” Riley said in a release. “He’s got an incredibly bright coaching future and will be an outstanding mentor to our players. I don’t think there’s anyone better to lead our running backs.”

Murray’s hire isn’t without risk.

He doesn’t have a long track record as either a coach or a recruiter.

After spending 2018 as a college football analyst on Fox’s college football broadcasts, Murray joined Kevin Sumlin’s staff at Arizona as the Wildcats’ running backs coach.

But there’s plenty of upside.

Murray steps in fully aware of the expectations in Norman, having starred for the Sooners from 2007-10.

His reputation as a player will also open doors in recruiting.

Adding accomplished college players to a coaching staff is relatively common. The 2000 Heisman Trophy winner, Chris Weinke, is Tennessee’s quarterbacks coach. Oklahoma State recently hired Tim Rattay, who put up record numbers as a passer at Louisiana Tech, to coach quarterbacks. There are plenty of others, too.

It’s more rare, though for a former NFL star to coach in the college ranks.

Among Power Five staffs, Murray is the most accomplished as a player.

Auburn running backs coach Cadillac Williams had a strong NFL career, as did UCLA running backs coach DeShaun Foster and Ole Miss cornerbacks coach Terrell Buckley.

But Williams last played in the NFL in 2011, Foster in 2008 and Buckley in 2005. Most of today’s recruits have no memory of those coaches playing.

Murray’s accomplishments are still plenty fresh.

“When he speaks, they listen,” Arizona outside receivers coach Taylor Mazzone told the Arizona Republic before last season. “It’s easy to have a great saying as a coach, but when you actually have done it recently and shown it on film and shown it on TV and your name’s on the bottom line of ESPN, it kind of sticks in these kids’ ears a little bit more.

“Just the way he carries himself as a professional. It’s kind of like, ‘You see, that’s an NFL player.’”

Less than two weeks ago, Murray helped secure the commitment to Arizona of three-star running back Frank Brown of Houston Sterling.

Riley still has one opening to fill on his staff after last week’s announcement that outside linebackers coach Ruffin McNeill was stepping away to return to North Carolina to care for his elderly father.

Related Photos
<strong>Former Oklahoma running back DeMarco Murray, left, hands off the ball during the Oklahoma Legends Football ProCamp. Murray, who starred in the NFL, was named OU's running backs coach on Monday. [Nate Billings/The Oklahoman]</strong>

Former Oklahoma running back DeMarco Murray, left, hands off the ball during the Oklahoma Legends Football ProCamp. Murray, who starred in the NFL, was named OU's running backs coach on Monday. [Nate Billings/The Oklahoman]

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-d857aff4d9ca165872f4a1df9db67aad.jpg" alt="Photo - Former Oklahoma running back DeMarco Murray, left, hands off the ball during the Oklahoma Legends Football ProCamp. Murray, who starred in the NFL, was named OU's running backs coach on Monday. [Nate Billings/The Oklahoman] " title=" Former Oklahoma running back DeMarco Murray, left, hands off the ball during the Oklahoma Legends Football ProCamp. Murray, who starred in the NFL, was named OU's running backs coach on Monday. [Nate Billings/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Former Oklahoma running back DeMarco Murray, left, hands off the ball during the Oklahoma Legends Football ProCamp. Murray, who starred in the NFL, was named OU's running backs coach on Monday. [Nate Billings/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure>
Ryan Aber

Ryan Aber has worked for The Oklahoman since 2006, covering high schools, the Oklahoma City RedHawks, the Oklahoma City Barons and OU football recruiting. An Oklahoma City native, Aber graduated from Northeastern State. Before joining The... Read more ›

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