Kyler Murray’s first and only season as the starting quarterback at the University of Oklahoma could not have gone much better. While the team’s year came to an end at the hands of Alabama in the College Football Playoff, Murray completely lit up defenses en route to winning the Heisman Trophy and leading the Sooners to a Big 12 championship.
There was plenty of intrigue surrounding Murray from the jump, both because he was a Texas high school legend and because he looked primed to spend one year in college before joining the Oakland Athletics, which drafted him ninth overall in the 2018 MLB Draft. Murray ended up wrestling with his decision, and earlier this year, decided he wanted to focus on playing in the NFL instead.
Murray went to the 2019 NFL Combine last week, and while he did not participate in drills, his height was measured and he met with some front offices. That second thing led to Charley Casserly of NFL Network reporting that Murray was the source of “the worst comments I ever got on a high-rated quarterback,” citing issues with his leadership and ability to diagnose defenses.
It’s a scathing report, the kind of thing that would scare off a number of teams if it were, indeed, true. In an attempt to push back against these criticisms, Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley appeared on The Dan Patrick Show and explained why he believes Casserly’s report is off base.
“Not surprising in the fact that it’s that time of year, and people are gonna say different things,” Riley said. “I just hate that people go out, make these comments, and you never even talk to the two people that coached this kid, you haven’t talked to teammates.”
Riley went on to say that he wouldn’t be surprised if this was a “smokescreen” in the never-ending cycle that is the NFL Draft before signing the praises of his now-former signal caller.
“Kyler was a tremendous leader for us, a tremendous leader,” Riley said. “Very aggressive, very important to him, all he cares about is winning. I think our team took on that personality without a doubt. As far as process an offense, he just had the greatest single season in the history of college football, so I think he can process just fine.”
In an interesting twist, Riley said he spoke to “a majority of the teams” that met with Murray at the Combine, calling their reports “glowing” and saying he was told “basically the complete opposite” of Casserly’s report.
All of this comes at an interesting time for Murray, who is skyrocketing up mock drafts and is now viewed as the favorite to get selected No. 1 overall by the Arizona Cardinals. There was optimism when he measured at a hair over 5’10 at the Combine, and between his natural talent, his collegiate success, his fit in new Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury’s system, and the expectation that he will put on a show at Oklahoma’s Pro Day in a week, his rise makes some amount of success. The biggest thing that could lead to his momentum stalling would, theoretically, be a report like the one we saw from Casserly, but fortunately for Murray, his college coach has his back.