Oklahoma Sooners: DeMarco Murray

Ultimate 300: Big 12's top classes 

January, 30, 2014
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The Texas-Oklahoma rivalry is bigger than football, but it’s always a fun topic of discussion when the rivalry talk turns to past success. It’s a conversation starter with the release of the Ultimate ESPN 300 class rankings, which ranks every top recruit since 2006. Oklahoma has a dozen players in the Ultimate ESPN 300; Texas has nine.

Here is a look at the top five Big 12 programs that have consistently put together stellar recruiting classes since ESPN began ranking recruits:

1. Oklahoma

The Sooners might start slow some years, but each year they continue to put together top recruiting classes that produce talent that can compete with any team in the country. The 2006 class was one of Bob Stoops’ best, as it produced the No. 1 running back in DeMarco Murray, a future Heisman Trophy winner in quarterback Sam Bradford and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who was the No. 3 overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft. With players such as offensive lineman Trent Williams, wide receiver Ryan Broyles and tight end Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma is one of the most consistent teams in college football. Stoops produces winners.

Ultimate 300: Big 12's top recruits 

January, 29, 2014
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It’s always fun to think back to the former stars of college football recruiting. The Big 12 had a few players who made an impact during their respective recruiting processes.

Here are five players from the Big 12 who made the top 50 of the ESPN Ultimate 300.


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Stats: Examining Landry Jones' struggles 

September, 27, 2012
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Oklahoma’s 24-19 loss to Kansas State last Saturday seems to have made Sooners fans forget just how good Landry Jones can be. His struggles were the driving force behind OU’s first loss of the season but the Sooners will need the senior if they have any hope of competing for a Big 12 championship this season.

No matter how bad it seems, Jones is the only quarterback in the league who has led his team to a Big 12 Championship during his career.

[+] EnlargeJones
Nelson Chenault/US PresswireOU quarterback Landry Jones has not spread the ball around as much in 2012.
In 2010, Jones led the Sooners on a five-game winning streak to capture the Big 12 title and win the Fiesta Bowl. Thanks to ESPN Stats & Information, SoonerNation was able to take a closer look at what many consider the best stretch of his career.

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Chat wrap: DeMarco Murray stops by

July, 12, 2012
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Former Oklahoma running back and current Dallas Cowboy DeMarco Murray participated in a chat on ESPN.com on Wednesday afternoon. Check out the full transcript here.

A few highlights:

Neal (DC): what was your favorite memory of those Red River Rivalry games?

DeMarco Murray: I would say the atmosphere. It was second to none. The fans made those games so much fun and the competition every game, no matter what our records were or where we stood, that game was like a national championship game.

Yodel (OKC): Who was the better quarterback Landry Jones or Sam Bradford?

DeMarco Murray: Definitely Sam. He's one of my best friends. Landry isn't far behind. But to me Sam was a better QB.

Jon (Fairfield, CA): Why did you choose Oklahoma?

DeMarco Murray: Because Coach Stoops was a great coach. They had a lot of great history at RB and they're known for winning championships.

Spencer (okc): what do u think of this years Sooner Squad?

DeMarco Murray: This year's Oklahoma team will be good. Landry is coming back. I haven't paid too much attention in the offseason with the recruits as I've been busy, but Oklahoma will always be good no matter what.

Every weekday morning, a member of the SoonerNation gives his take on three things happening in the Sooner sports world.

1. OU quarterback commit Cody Thomas (Colleyville, Texas/Heritage) received an invitation to the Elite 11 finals on Thursday night and will compete against 24 other signal-callers from July 18 to 22 in Redondo Beach, Calif. The finals will be shown in two parts on ESPN with "Elite 11 QB Camp: The Finals" airing Tuesday, Aug. 7, and Tuesday, Aug. 14.

2. You might have missed it earlier this week, but the Sooners are after another running back from Las Vegas Bishop Gorman, the school that OU recruited DeMarco Murray out of. Rising junior Nathan Starks, who is 6-foot and 210 pounds, has already been offered by OU, along with several other schools across the country. Starks has a lot of early interest in the Sooners and will visit campus this summer.

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The loss of Brent Venables will have a tremendous impact on Oklahoma each Saturday but could have a even bigger impact on the Sooners on National Signing Day each February.

Venables was one of the best recruiters on the Sooners staff, recruiting the Dallas/Fort Worth area as good as anyone in the country while also closing quality recruits from Florida, Las Vegas and Kansas in the last six years.

Here’s a look at various recruits Venables has recruited to Oklahoma since 2006 and their impact (or lack thereof) on the program:

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NORMAN, Okla. – When Bob Stoops brought his brother back to Norman, he envisioned recapturing the magic that generated some of the best defenses in Oklahoma history.

Instead, Stoops will now have to hire a linebacker coach.

Wednesday night, co-defensive coordinator Brent Venables announced that he has left Oklahoma to become the defensive coordinator at Clemson, leaving the Sooners with another coaching vacancy.

In hiring Mike Stoops last week, Bob Stoops believed he was getting the band back together.

With Mike Stoops calling the defense and Venables co-coordinating, the Sooners ranked third nationally in fewest yards allowed in 2003. In 2001, Oklahoma ranked fourth.

[+] EnlargeBrent Venables, Bob Stoops
Brett Davis/US PresswireBrent Venables has been on the Oklahoma staff since Bob Stoops took the job in 1999.
And in the 2000 national championship game, the Stoops brothers and Venables devised a defensive game plan for the ages as the Sooners kept Florida State’s high-powered offense from scoring.

Too much time, however, had passed. And Bob Stoops’ hopes proved to be short-lived. After Venables and Mike Stoops took a recruiting trip together to Florida, Venables and his wife flew to Clemson. And the allure of a new challenge, a massive pay raise and the chance to call his own defense again won out.

Because of the success the Sooners endured while Mike Stoops was the senior partner in the relationship, Venables was never fully appreciated by the Oklahoma fan base. Moreover, the explosion of Big 12 offenses after Mike Stoops left made it virtually impossible to produce top five defenses.

But Venables still coordinated some gems that helped catapult the Sooners to Big 12 championships in ’06, ’08 and ’10.

In 2008, the Sooners wiped out second-ranked Texas Tech by holding one of the nation’s top offenses to a single touchdown in the first half. OU went on to play for a national championship that season.

But perhaps his most memorable coaching job came in the final game of the ’10 regular season against Oklahoma State. Faced with the task of slowing down the high-powered Cowboys, Bob Stoops and Venables elected to revamp the entire defense, going to a 3-4 scheme. The shift stunned the Cowboys, and Oklahoma State managed only three offensive touchdowns as Oklahoma prevailed.

But as much as the Sooners will miss Venables as a coordinator and linebackers coach, they will miss him just as much as an ace recruiter.

Ronnell Lewis, Demontre Hurst, Tom Wort, Corey Nelson, Austin Box, Jamell Fleming and DeMarco Murray are just a few of the standouts Venables had a hand in recruiting to Norman in recent years.

He also was the assistant who secured two of OU’s top verbal commitments in this recruiting class: safety Eric Striker and running back Daniel Brooks. Venables also was the primary assistant recruiting California cornerback Brandon Beaver, who is scheduled to visit OU this weekend.

Bob Stoops tried to get the band back together. With his brother and Venables blazing the recruiting trail as a tandem, then forging those ferocious defenses again on the field.

Instead, the Stoopses will be on their own. Turned out, the band didn’t get back together.

DeMarco Murray breaks ankle, out for year

December, 12, 2011
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Former Oklahoma Sooners running back DeMarco Murray suffered a season-ending fractured right ankle to go with a high right ankle sprain on a first-quarter carry in the Dallas Cowboys' 37-34 loss to the New York Giants on Sunday night.

He will finish his rookie season with 897 yards on 164 carries and two touchdowns. Tony Dorsett, Calvin Hill and Emmitt Smith are the only Cowboys to rush for more yards as rookies.

Murray holds several Oklahoma records. He's the Sooners' career all-purpose yards leader with 6,498 yards and has the most career touchdowns (64) and receiving yards by a running back (1,512).
Unranked Texas A&M's 33-19 upset of then-No. 8 Oklahoma last season left two lasting images.

For the first time in a long time, players left the field to chants of "Wrecking Crew," the moniker ultimately reserved for the best Texas A&M defenses.

The other was the dominant play on the line of scrimmage that birthed those chants.

Three times, Von Miller's crew stuffed Oklahoma at the goal line, the biggest coming in the final minutes to seal the win, denying DeMarco Murray the end zone on three runs inside the 5-yard line.

[+] EnlargeChristine Michael
AP Photo/Brandon WadeChristine Michael will need room to run for the Aggies to upset Oklahoma on Saturday.
Once again, Texas A&M is unranked and facing Oklahoma with three losses. This time, it travels to Norman, where it was beaten 65-10 in its last trip back in 2009.

The Sooners and Aggies are the two most physical offenses in the Big 12, and if A&M is going to spring another upset, it will have to win the battle of the line of scrimmage. The Big 12, with its elite skill-position talent and deep stock of quarterbacks, doesn't always have games decided up front. This one will be.

"Our offensive line is coming around," said Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman, who played true freshmen last year at both offensive tackle spots. "Until this last ballgame, defensively, we’ve been pretty good against the run."

Consider: Oklahoma leads the nation with 34 sacks. The Sooners have allowed three sacks, tied with Boise State for the fewest nationally.

Texas A&M, meanwhile, has given up just seven sacks and is third nationally with 30 sacks.

"A lot of us have definitely stepped up," said Texas A&M defensive lineman Spencer Nealy. "We definitely always play with a lot of effort, and at times, like any other position, we’ll have mistakes, but as a whole, we played pretty good."

The Aggies, though, have ascended to second in the Big 12 at 224 yards rushing per game while Oklahoma has sunk to eighth, though the Sooners possess the league's top passing attack.

Oklahoma will be without leading rusher Dominique Whaley, too, who suffered a broken ankle in Saturday's win over Kansas State.

Texas A&M fields the league's best 1-2 punch at running back, and last year's growth took place without one of them even on the field.

"The maturation of [the offensive line] really helped us. We struggled early in the season. We gave up a lot of sacks in the first half of the season. We didn’t run the ball very well," Sherman said. "We weren’t protecting well, we weren't running the ball well. They started to come into their own. A couple of our young tackles were talented but they didn’t have the experience. I thought they grew up in the second half of the season and we emphasized the run game more and took some pressure off the passing game and tried to stay out of long-yardage situations. ... They had a big part in the second-half run last season."

It's only continued into 2011. Christine Michael's broken leg that forced him out of the second half of the season has healed, and he's on course for a career season with 811 yards, third-most in the Big 12. Cyrus Gray has 704 yards of his own to rank ninth in the league.

Those two are fully capable of carrying the Aggies to the upset.

Despite the high sack numbers for A&M, it's given up more passing yards per game than any team in the country. How?

"It’s not ability at all. We’ve got some of the best players in the Big 12," Nealy said, pointing to fundamentals.

The best way to slow Oklahoma's passing attack is to keep it off the field. That means running the ball well and pressuring Landry Jones.

Texas A&M's offensive and defensive lines can do that. They proved it last year.

Now, it's time to do it again.

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