The conventional wisdom is starting to take a backseat to the unexpected. Clemson defeated Alabama by 28 points in the national championship game. Kliff Kingsbury, who amassed a 35-40 record at Texas Tech was fired by the Red Raiders, hired by USC and then is now the next head coach for the Arizona Cardinals. Sure, that is unconventional. But, this? It was a foregone conclusion in August that this would be his last year. However, could Kyler Murray return to Oklahoma in 2019? We take a look at how this could be a definite possibility.
Now, there are many things to consider for this to become reality. First, the current contract with the Oakland A’s would call for Murray to most likely pay back his signing bonus should he elect to return to Oklahoma. However, another option would be for Murray to play baseball in the spring and summer, enroll in online classes, and return to the Sooners in the fall. There have been previous cases where this has happened.
John Elway was the first player to accomplish this feat. In 1981, he was drafted in the second round by the New York Yankees. Elway played for the Yankees minor league affiliate Oneonta in the New York-Penn League. Then, he returned to Stanford in the fall where he became the number one overall pick in the NFL. More recently, Russell Wilson juggled football and baseball for two seasons. While at North Carolina State and Wisconsin, Wilson played baseball for the Tri-City Dust Devils and the Asheville Tourists as a second baseman in the minor leagues.
Motivation to Return
First, the biggest question the comes to mind is why would Murray want to return. Now, he may not be the same vocal leader that Baker Mayfield was. But, most would agree that his competitive spirit is as high as Mayfield’s was. He clearly wears his emotions his sleeves as he was visibly in tears in both losses to Texas and Alabama. With that, many people in Murray’s inner circle believe that he is simply more passionate about football. Even with the Heisman Trophy, could the possibility of winning a national championship with an improved roster entice him to return?
The cupboard is far from bare. In fact, the 2019 recruiting class has been the best in Norman in quite some time. Currently, the Sooner rank third according to Rivals and fourth in the 247 national recruiting rankings. Specifically, Murray could be intrigued by the receivers that he could play with. Three of the top 10 receivers in the country have signed letters of intent with the Sooners and will be enrolling early. Jadon Haselwood, Theo Wease, and Trejan Bridges all look primed to join CeeDee Lamb as immediate contributors next season.
Also, Murray could have motivation in terms of the Heisman Trophy. He would have the opportunity to be only the second back-to-back winner of the award. Now, he would have to battle Tua Tagovailoa and Trevor Lawrence for the honor. But, he certainly would be among the leaders with those weapons returning.
Where there is smoke there is fire
The chances of Murray returning to the Sooners in 2019 are slim, at best. However, there has been some fuel to the fire as of late. Gil Brandt, along with some NFL insiders certainly do believe it is at least a possibility that Murray returns. He has been one for two on his early predictions.
Two things I wouldn't be shocked if they happened in 2019:
1. Kliff Kingsbury was an NFL HC
2. Kyler Murray returned to OU
— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) January 3, 2019
Now, as recently as Tuesday there was some additional insight provided. Former Sooner linebacker Teddy Lehman is one of the hosts of the Franchise radio show in Oklahoma City. He is also the sideline reporter for the Sooner radio network. He went on record as to say that he believes that Murray would return in 2019. Now, Lehman was not clear as to whether he was operating with inside information or if it was based on a gut feeling. Nevertheless, this created more buzz around the potential of this occurring.
Now, how close the Sooners were to a national championship in 2018 was certainly up for debate. On one side, Oklahoma made the playoffs for the third time in four years and played a respectable game against Alabama. But, the lopsided loss that the Tide took might have some wondering. With Murray, the Sooners would likely equal the offensive production of a year ago.
But, the key will still again be centered around the defense. The hiring of a proven commodity at the defensive coordinator such as Alex Grinch would certainly help matters. Even with the struggles on defense, talent is there. And, the prevailing commentary is that Oklahoma could not get much worse than 109th in the country. Now, would it be able to improve enough to be a championship level defense? It remains to be seen whether the combination of these items could be enough to persuade Murray to return, but the anticipation will be mounting over the next few weeks in awaiting his decision.