Oklahoma names Kyler Murray starting quarterback

Kyler Murray has been picked to fill Heisman winner Baker Mayfield’s shoes as Oklahoma‘s starting quarterback.

The seventh-ranked Sooners said Wednesday that Murray — who is putting a baseball career on hold for now — will start the season opener on Sept. 1 against Florida Atlantic.

“This is a moment, since I started playing, I’ve been working for this,” Murray said. “For me to be named the starting quarterback is obviously a huge honor. I know the standard of the position at this university, so it’s my job to hold it.”

The Oakland Athletics took Murray with the ninth pick in the MLB draft this summer. Murray signed for nearly $5 million, yet the sides agreed that he could return to school and play football this season.

Murray was Mayfield’s backup last season and completed 18 of 21 passes for 359 yards and three touchdowns without an interception. He also ran 14 times for 142 yards, including a 66-yard dash on the first play against West Virginia.

Austin Kendall was the backup in 2016 before redshirting last year. Murray and Kendall battled throughout the spring for the position, and no clear-cut leader was established until fall camp.

“It was very close,” Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley said. “It stayed that way. It was one of the closest that I’ve been involved with. They both did a tremendous job. At the end of the day, only one can do it.”

Riley said Kendall took the news hard, but handled it in a mature way.

“He’s certainly disappointed,” Riley said. “He wants to play. For a guy like him, you can’t sit there and say, `What I’ve did here over the past several months didn’t work.’ What he did over the last several months did work. He’s a much, much improved player. It’s going to help him a lot going forward.”

Riley said Kendall’s improvement helped Murray.

“They made each other better,” Riley said. “They fed off of each other. When one would raise their game, the other would answer back. They’ve both played at a high level. It’s made them better individually and it’s made this team better.”

Riley said Murray, best known for his blazing speed, throws the ball well, too. Because of that versatility, Riley expects similar production to last year, when the Sooners led the nation in total offense.

“It starts with the ability to lead, and it starts with the ability to throw the football,” Riley said. “Everything else is all well and good. Our guys are going to have to be able to do that. He’s going to get his chance. People can say this or that. He’ll get his chance to show what he can do.”

Murray hasn’t played regularly since his freshman year at Texas A&M in 2015, so he’s anxious to get on the field.

“I think I’ve been playing the best football of my life these past couple months, as of late, growing from freshman year at A&M until now. ” he said. “Being with coach Riley has obviously helped me a lot. Sitting behind Baker helped me a lot. And now it’s time to go.”