Big sea­son at QB gives Mur­ray an­other op­tion

The A’s prospect may also have a fu­ture in the NFL

The Mercury News Weekend - - SPORTS - By Mar­tin Gal­le­gos mgal­le­[email protected] ba­yare­anews­group.com

OAK­LAND » When Kyler Mur­ray was se­lected ninth over­all by the A’s in June’s base­ball draft, the thought of him ac­tu­ally hav­ing a shot to play in the NFL was a mere fan­tasy.

He was the heir to 2017 Heis­man Tro­phy win­ner Baker May- field, tak­ing over as quar­ter­back for a tra­di­tion­ally high-pow­ered Ok­la­homa squad. But listed at just 5-foot-11 and 195 pounds, there was no chance of Mur­ray play­ing on Sun­days un­less it was a 1:05 mat­inée with the A’s. The only real con­cern on Oak­land’s side of things was mak­ing sure Mur­ray just got through the sea­son healthy.

Six months later, things have changed.

Mur­ray hasn’t just filled in ad­e­quately as May­field’s re­place­ment, he has shined to the point that he is seen at the very worst a co-fa­vorite for the Heis­man along with Alabama quar­ter­back Tua Tago­v­ailoa. On Thurs­day, Mur­ray was named The As­so­ci­ated Press col­lege foot­ball player of the year and won the Davey O’Brien Award as

the na­tion’s top quar­ter­back.

As of Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon, Fan­duel has Mur­ray as the leader in the club­house as a -140 fa­vorite for the Heis­man, and with good rea­son. The red­shirt ju­nior has gone bonkers this sea­son, ac­cu­mu­lat­ing 4,945 yards and 51 touch­downs as he has led the Soon­ers to a 12-1 record and a berth in the Col­lege Foot­ball Play­off. A’s gen­eral man­ager David Forst could get a chance to get a closer look at the prized prospect if Ok­la­homa makes it to the CFP ti­tle game at Levi’s Sta­dium next month.

Mur­ray hasn’t got­ten any big­ger in terms of stature, but his draft stock may be ris­ing with the emer­gence of smaller-sized big-armed quar­ter­backs cur­rently thriv­ing in the NFL like Patrick Ma­homes, Lamar Jackson and May­field.

NFL draft ex­perts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay went back and forth on ESPN on Wed­nes­day, Kiper la­bel­ing Mur­ray a se­cond-rounder be­cause of his height, and McShay pro­ject­ing him as a first-rounder be­cause of the chang­ing na­ture of the league.

The spec­u­la­tion over whether Mur­ray could ac­tu­ally choose foot­ball over base­ball was se­ri­ous enough to the point that Scott Bo­ras, Mur­ray’s agent, tried to douse the flames ear­lier this week when he straight­for­wardly told Fan­cred’s Jon Hey­man, “He will be in spring train­ing with the A’s.”

But take a look at this an­swer Mur­ray gave Tim Te­bow in an in­ter­view dur­ing ESPN’s “Col­lege Game­Day” last week.

“I think that’s some­thing me and my fam­ily will talk about at the end of the sea­son and weigh out the op­tions of what the NFL thinks of me,” Mur­ray said.

Doesn’t ex­actly sound like some­one fully ready to give up foot­ball just yet.

Mur­ray does have base­ball blood lines — his un­cle, Calvin, was a 1992 first-round se­lec­tion by the Gi­ants who spent five sea­sons in the ma­jors — but foot­ball is clearly a sport in­grained in the Mur­ray fam­ily.

Kyler’s fa­ther, Kevin, was a quar­ter­back at Texas A&M from 1983-86. Grow­ing up in foot­ball- crazy Texas, Kyler took the Mur­ray name to the next level as he was twice named Mr. Texas Foot­ball in high school, go­ing 43- 0 as quar­ter­back at Allen High.

So what hap­pens if Mur­ray de­cides to con­tinue play­ing foot­ball at the high­est level? The A’s might be out $4.7 mil­lion, which was the sign­ing bonus given to Mur­ray in June.

This is of course some­thing the A’s were will­ing to risk when draft­ing him based on his im­pres­sive tools on the di­a­mond, which drew com­par­isons to Bos­ton’s Jackie Bradley Jr.

“We just felt Kyler was a unique ta­lent. It’s some­thing you come across rarely in what we do,” A’s di­rec­tor of scout­ing Eric Kub­ota said shortly af­ter draft­ing Mur­ray. “The risk of the foot­ball was in our opin­ion out­weighed by the up­side on the base­ball field.”

The A’s might have to wait un­til Jan. 14, the dead­line for un­der­class­men to de­clare for the NFL draft, to see if that risk will pay off.

• Mur­ray is the se­cond straight Ok­la­homa quar­ter­back and fifth over­all to win the AP Player of the Year award since it was es­tab­lished in 1998. Mur­ray beat out Alabama quar­ter­back Tua Tago­v­ailoa on 56 bal­lots sub­mit­ted by AP poll vot­ers. Ohio State quar­ter­back Dwayne Hask­ins Jr. was third. Mur­ray, Tago­v­ailoa and Hask­ins are the three fi­nal­ists for the Heis­man Tro­phy, which will be awarded Satur­day.

Mur­ray re­ceived 39 first- place votes and a to­tal of 145 points. Tago­v­ailoa re­ceived 13 first-place votes (117 points) and Hask­ins was listed first on four bal­lots (55 points).

Mur­ray joins Baker May­field (2017), Josh He­u­pel (2000), Ja­son White (2003) and Sam Brad­ford (2008) as pre­vi­ous win­ners from Ok­la­homa. Mur­ray was May­field’s backup last sea­son and won the starter’s job in pre­sea­son prac­tice. He went on to be­come one of three 4,000-yard passers in the na­tion and threw for 40 touch­downs. He also has rushed for 892 yards and 11 touch­downs.

Mur­ray leads the coun­try in to­tal of­fense (4,945 yards), points re­spon­si­ble for (306) and pass­ing ef­fi­ciency (205.7).

JUSTIN K. ALLER — GETTY IM­AGES

A’s first-round draft pick and Ok­la­homa quar­ter­back Kyler Mur­ray was named The As­so­ci­ated Press col­lege foot­ball player of the year.

JOHN BAZEMORE — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Ok­la­homa quar­ter­back Kyler Mur­ray poses Thurs­day with the tro­phy af­ter win­ning the Davey O’Brien Award.

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