Exhibits some shiftiness to his game once he gets up to full speed and knows how to give a slight shoulder fake to a defender and explode into space. Displays a willingness to block in the pass game and although he isn't real physical and struggles with leverage, he does possess the body control to stick his head in and chop down defenders on contact.
Exhibits improved instincts in tight areas as a senior and does a better job picking his way through traffic, using his lateral agility to make a man miss and create after his initial move. Now, he still runs too high through the line, but does a better job lowering his pad level into contact to protect himself. But still seems to get tripped up and tackled by the fingertip of a defender too easily inside when trying to accelerate through a hole. Does have some injury concerns, as he has been banged up at times which can be a direct result of running high and exposing his frame to some bigger hits.
Impression: A violent slashing type running back who has improved his bulk and overall feel inside. I still don't think you want this guy starting for you at the next level. But as an X-factor type who can line up all over an offense and create, I think he can certainly add an element to an NFL offense."
The highly-touted back redshirted 2006 with Adrian Peterson and Allen Patrick running the ball for the Sooners. He took advantage of playing time the following year, garnering honorable mention All-Big 12 honors from the AP and league coaches after averaging six yards a rush (127 carries for 764 yards) and scoring 13 times - in addition to receiving two touchdown passes and averaging 29.4 yards a kickoff return. He came back to earn first-team All-Big 12 honors in 2008 (1,002 rushing yards, 14 scores, 31-395-4 receiving, 27.6 kickoff return average). And though his rushing production dipped a bit as a junior (705 yards, 4.1 yards per rush, eight scores, five starts in 12 games) due to injuries and an inexperienced quarterback/offensive line, Murray made enough hay as a receiver (41-544-4) that coaches still voted him second-team All-Big 12.
Murray had his best statistical rushing year in 2010, covering 1,214 yards and scoring 15 times for the Sooners (along with 71-544-5 receiving and 10-249 returning kicks) as a first-team All-Big 12 pick, but he was not often explosive enough for scouts to consider him an elite prospect. Add in his frequent injuries and a deep running back class, and Murray may find it difficult to crack the top 50.
Inside: North-south runner who runs tough between the tackles despite his reputation as a speed back. One-cut back who can plant and drive, get to top speed quickly in the open field. Shows some patience to find holes inside but also presses the line to prevent getting caught up in the backfield. Runs a bit upright because of his height, but will fall forward for extra yardage. Agile enough to jump over defenders on the ground after busting through a hole. Excellent vertical on goal line leaps. Improved his handle in 2010(one fumbles, none lost; 9-3 from 2007-2009). His vision is questionable, though, seemed to run with his head down too often as a senior.
Outside: If allowed to get outside, Murray makes defenses pay with hard-nosed running and a breakaway gear. Waves through defenders in space with strong cuts. Maintains his lean and keeps his legs churning when breaking outside, allowing him to run over smaller linebackers and defensive backs. Effective stiff arm against chasing safeties. Gets loose with the ball in the open, carries it low instead of high and tight. Inconsistent changing to the outside hand. Best as a slasher, finds it difficult to get the corner against better defenses.
Breaking Tackles: Does not have elite elusiveness as a runner and gives defenders a big strike zone due to his height, but can make a quick cut or a shake move in space to freeze would-be tacklers. Also sets up tacklers with a step or two in one direction then a hard move the other way. Can jump cut to go against the grain. Quickness to the hole, good vision, ability to break through arm tackles, and straight-line speed make him a strong candidate to return kicks at the next level. Looked a bit tentative running in traffic in 2010, needs to return to former form.
Blocking: A potential three-down back because he does not shy away from contact in pass protection. Stands up to much bigger linemen inside to keep his quarterback clean. Aggressive cut blocker who will stop linebackers off the edge but also whiff when dropping his head and leaving his feet. Also doubles defensive ends off the edge effectively, extending his arms and moving his feet to mirror. Must be more aware of blitzing linebackers and not get stuck looking at one side of the line, however, as he leaves his quarterback vulnerable to secondary rushes.
Receiving: Dangerous receiver in the flat and over the middle with his combination of strong running and speed. Good cuts on short out routes and gives his quarterback a target on middle screens. Lines up in the slot at times to take advantage of linebacker match-ups. Uses a stiff arms or lowers his shoulder to get extra yardage after the catch instead of going out of bounds. Maintains his balance and keeps his legs moving through arm tackles in space. Good vision after the catch, follows blocks downfield and makes cuts to freeze and run by defenders. Inconsistent hands; typically brings in accurate throws in the flat with his hands, but occasionally traps the ball against his body over the middle or misses the easy catch hearing footsteps or trying to make a move before securing the ball.
Intangibles: Vocal, respected player in the locker room; no major issues with his character. Durability is a major concern, however. Worked through a turf toe injury in his redshirt season, lost the final three games if 2007 after dislocating his right kneecap the end of his freshman campaign while recovering an onside kick, missed the second half of the 2008 Big 12 Championship Game and the BCS title contest after partially rupturing his left hamstring, sat two games and was limited in others with a sprained left ankle in 2009. Had bruised ribs in 2010, but did not miss a game."
Elusiveness: Lack of elite lateral mobility impacts Murray's ability to consistently make defenders miss at the line of scrimmage. However, he does have some wiggle and can make a defender or two miss. Murray runs with a high pad level which gives defenders clean shots at his legs. Murray is most effective when he is in open space. When in a phone booth he struggles to make defenders miss.
Pass Catching: Murray is a dynamic receiver who uses his hands to pluck the ball out of the air. He can line up in the slot and can gain separation against linebackers and safeties. He has good balance when running his routes. Murray has excellent concentration and it shows in the passing game. Murray focused on the football and cleanly made every catch. .
Pass Blocking: Murray can identify pre-snap blitzes and has a good feel for when to make the block or to release into a pattern. Murray is an average blocker in that he didn't show the ability to anchor or mirror. He was willing and threw his shoulder into the rusher. Murray was able to cleanly recognize the blitz package and understood when to stand in and block and when to make himself available for a pass.
Power: Breaking tackles is not a strong suit of Murray's game due to his lack of balance and high pad level. However, he does a good job pressing the hole and getting through it quickly. You are not going to see Murray running through tacklers because he doesn't run behind his pads very well. His up and down running style doesn't allow him to generate power and finish off plays strong. However, he does a good job lowering his shoulder when he knows contact is coming.
Size: At 6-1 210lbs Murray possess average size for an NFL running back. However, the distribution of the weight is less than ideal as he is thin through the thighs and rear. Durability is going to be a concern for Murray in the NFL due to his high running style.
Speed: Murray is a quick twitch athlete with the ability to get up to full speed in a hurry. He has the speed to get the edge on a defense and out run linebacker angles. While he can get up to full speed quickly he lacks a great 2nd gear.
Vision: Murray isn't a natural runner and struggles to make a quick read when faced with pressure. Murray is more of a 1 cut get down the field back. He will put his head down and get the yardage available. Murray doesn't appear to have natural vision as he hesitates before accelerating through the hole. His slow diagnosis of what to do when faced with pressure led to loss of yardage. However, Murray didn't do much dancing in the backfield; he understood the importance of getting every available yard.
Final Word: Overall, Murray's best fit might be as a third down back where he can utilize his dynamic pass catching abilities. He would benefit from landing on a team with a creative offensive coordinator that wont be afraid to line him up in the slot. Murray's ability to contribute to the passing game may put him in the 4th round range. However, he doesn't appear to be anything special as a running back."
Murray is explosive, but his role may be limited in the NFL.
Teams are beginning to move away from the style of play in which bulkier running backs like Jerome Bettis and Ricky Williams flourished, and we’re beginning to see speedsters like Chris Johnson and Jamaal Charles take the reigns.
DeMarco Murray, who played four seasons at the University of Oklahoma after coming out of high school in Las Vegas in 2006 as a four-star recruit, certainly falls into the “speedster” category.
His star was shining bright after his freshman season, but his production dipped a bit as his collegiate career went on, due in large part to nagging injuries. How is his stock looking as we prepare for the 2011 NFL Draft?
As we alluded to above, Murray’s finest quality may be his speed. He possesses above average height for a running back, and can help create mismatches as a result. He can be explosive as a receiver out of the backfield, and can outrun opposing linebackers with each when getting to the edge and around the corner. Murray’s effortless running style is reminiscent of that of the aforementioned Chris Johnson. His acceleration is elite, and he shows great burst through the line and second level of the defense. Murray has the potential to be effective lining up as a slot receiver, and has good enough hands to produce with regularity as a pass-catcher. He can also contribute as a kick returner.
Murray’s upright running style is his most glaring weakness. While he has the speed run around opposing defenders, his upright style combined with his 6’1″ frame gives tacklers a fairly sizable target. His speed and running style also make it difficult for him to keep his balance, which makes it very tough to break tackles and absorb much contact without going down. Because of this, Murray isn’t typically projected as an every down running back that can take a hit and continue to churn the legs and fight for extra yardage. This limits his value, and he will likely be forced into a scat-back type role as a pro. He is not a particularly patient runner, either, and will often choose to take chances running into congested areas rather than trying to wait for his blocks to develop and running lanes to take shape. He also wasn’t too durable at Oklahoma.
Murray’s athleticism and speed make him a very intriguing prospect, but his role is likely limited as an NFL player. Because situational role players aren’t typically gambled upon with high draft picks, he seems likely to be a second or third-round selection. If he can remain healthy, his combination and talent and explosiveness alone will allow him to make plays at the next level. However, unless he’s able to adjust that running style and can learn to keep his balance after being hit, he may be one-dimensional as a pro. Murray may be able to improve upon his draft stock with a strong showing at the upcoming Senior Bowl.
NFL Player Comparison: Reggie Bush"
Positive: Physically talented skill player who has flashed dominance in the past. Runs with a smooth style, has good quickness, and displays the ability to bounce around piles and make defenders miss. Possesses the agility to turn the corner, finds cutback lanes, and quickly gets through them. Keeps his feet moving on contact, runs with good lean, and shows a burst. Patient in all aspects and waits for blocks to develop, following them everywhere on the field. Terrific receiver who displays soft and strong hands. Gets vertical in a crowd, adjusts, and consistently comes away with the ball. Extends to make catches away from his frame.
Negative: Does not play with an aggressive style. Runs a bit upright and takes a lot of heavy hits. Struggled with injuries throughout his college career.
Analysis: Murray has displayed skill the past three seasons and at times makes scouts think he offers potential as a feature runner in the NFL. His penchant for injuries and occasional soft style will downgrade him, though Murray possesses all the skills necessary to produce at the next level if he plays up to his potential."
Negatives: Shows too much of the ball when he's running, NFL defenders will rip the ball away from him too often... Has an upright running style that allows him to be knocked off center and has a hard time breaking tackles... Has a hard time getting out of arm tackles, needs to be stronger through the hole... Below-average leg drive, doesn't push the pile, gets driven backwards by larger defenders... Not a good pass blocker, usually goes out for passes on third downs... Tons of injury concerns, his upright running style leaves him vulnerable to a ton of hits, and he has missed time each year he has been at Oklahoma, needs to shake these concerns with a big senior season... Has struggled in big games, had 27 yards on 20 carries against Stanford in the 2009 Sun Bowl, only had five carries for -3 yards against Texas before getting injured, and only had 14 yards on seven carries against Texas Tech... His average per carry has fallen each season he has been at Oklahoma... Likes to break too many runs to the outside, needs to work more between the tackles."
Weaknesses: Not a big back and lacks true homerun speed. Will occasionally run upright and take big shots, and has been injury prone. Fumbles too often. Too often relies on the cut block.
Projection: Arguably the nation's top senior RB; will be a solid mid-round choice, possibly as high as the early second. Might not be a feature back, but should be a dynamic change-of-pace or second back."
The 2009 season did not go quite as well as opposing defenses keyed in on the ground game after the injury to quarterback Sam Bradford. Murray's yards-per-carry average went down a lot, but he still proved to be a dangerous back that is always a threat to get to the end zone. In 2010 Murray finally got the ground game all to himself. Through ten games he has not disappointed and has rushed for 911 yards on 207 carries. Murray has also caught an impressive 52 passes and has accounted for a total of 17 touchdowns.
What separates Murray from Brown -- besides the fact that Brown is more of a downhill runner -- is Murray's ability to catch the ball. His explosiveness makes Murray a great secondary back and that could be enough for him to sneak into the first round. However, Murray is more than just an explosive back. In 2010 he proved that he can carry the ball 20 to 25 times per game and be the workhorse in the backfield."
His greatest knock is durability — he is extremely tight-hipped and stiff to the point of almost being awkward in his gait and could have as difficult of a time staying healthy in the NFL as he has in college, missing time at the end of the season as a result of multiple injuries."
An absolutely tremendous 3rd Down weapon, DeMarco Murray could easily become one of the most electric Slashers in the Game. He's got an explosive initial Burst, blazing Speed, excellent Lateral Agility, and also commands outstanding Fluidity. Mind you, he does need to continue to work on running lower, avoiding exposure to the hits that've raised health concerns.
He's a solid Blocker and a dangerous Receiver.
In my efforts to organize RB's by their styles, I've invented the terms "Smashers", "Slashers", + "Thrashers" as what I hope will be easy references, respectively, to Power Backs, 3rd Down Backs, and Hybrids. "Tail Back" and "Half Back" are used too interchangeably, and in any case, a 3rd term is need, for there are at least 3 distinct types.
In that vein, DeMarco Murray is clearly a Slasher, and, if he can stay healthy, he should be an exceptional one.
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