Kliff Kingsbury said last year he'd take Kyler Murray with the first pick in the draft

Back in October, then-Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury had seemingly endless good things to say about Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray.

Having recruited Murray out of high school in Allen, Texas, Kingsbury knows Murray well and has faced him over the years when Murray was at Texas A&M and Oklahoma.

“Kyler is a freak,” Kingsbury said. “I’d take him with the first pick in the draft if I could. I know he’s signed up to play baseball, but he is a dominant football player, and I would take him with the first pick.”

New Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury spoke highly of Kyler Murray when they were both in the Big 12. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
New Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury spoke highly of Kyler Murray when they were both in the Big 12. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Fast forward less than three months, and Kingsbury is now the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals, who happen to own the first pick in the draft. And on Wednesday, news broke that Murray intends to enter the NFL Draft.

Kliff and Kyler go back

Kingsbury has never had a chance to coach Murray before, but he’s very familiar with the Heisman winner. Before taking over as Texas Tech’s head coach in 2013, Kingsbury was the Aggies offensive coordinator and helped recruit Murray, who was starring at Allen High School.

Texas Tech showed continued interest in Murray and offered him a scholarship once Kingsbury came aboard. The Red Raiders obviously missed out on him twice, as he chose to play at two other Big 12 schools, but they’ve had to prepare for him three times going back to 2015.

“I’ve followed him since he was a sophomore in high school and just think the world of him and what he can do on a football field,” Kingsbury said. “I’ve never seen one better in high school and he’s just starting to show it now at the college level. I don’t have enough good things to say about him. He’s phenomenal. I’ve never seen him have a bad outing, not one. Which at quarterback, that’s impossible to do. But he’s done it.”

Is there any chance of a Kingsbury-Murray union?

College football fans can dream of an Air Raid union made in heaven of Kingsbury and Murray playing at University of Phoenix Stadium, but there are plenty of obstacles in the way of that reality. Chiefly among those are that the Cardinals already have a franchise quarterback, not to mention that Murray is not widely projected to go No. 1 in the draft and Murray may not even play football.

Kingsbury was only able to get the head coaching job because head coach Steve Wilks was unceremoniously dismissed after one season since he was unable to develop first-round quarterback Josh Rosen. The Cardinals traded up to the 10th pick in the 2018 draft to nab Rosen, who had all the makings of a top quarterback but slipped in part because of his outspoken nature.

Rosen’s rookie year didn’t go well, as he ranked 32nd among qualifying starters with a 55.2 percent completion rate and last with 5.8 yards per attempt and a 26.6 QBR. However, a porous offensive line did not help Rosen’s cause, as he was one of five quarterbacks to be sacked on more than 10 percent of dropbacks. Arizona still sees him as a franchise cornerstone and brought in QB whisperer Kingsbury to unlock his potential.

What are the Cardinals likely going to do with the No. 1 pick?

The 2019 draft is one of the deepest in years in terms of defensive lineman, so if the Cardinals keep their top pick, they are likely to go in that direction, whether it be Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams or Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa.

However, the Cardinals do have a lot of holes to fill, so they could opt to trade down and add a bevy of extra picks. The Indianapolis Colts traded down from the third pick to the sixth pick in last year’s draft and added three second-round picks for the trouble. In 2016, the top two picks were dealt with the Tennessee Titans and Cleveland Browns recouping a pair of first-rounders and several more early picks.

However, Arizona may not be able to get quite as big of a haul, since there is no standout quarterback prospect in this draft. Oregon’s Justin Herbert was the consensus top prospect but opted to return for his senior year. Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins recently declared but doesn’t quite have 1-1 buzz. And then there’s Murray, who has been considered more of a “first three rounds” talent than a surefire top pick.

Of course, there’s also a chance Murray doesn’t play football at all. The Oakland Athletics drafted him ninth overall in the 2018 MLB Draft, and he signed with them for a $4.66 million contract. Murray will not be able to play both sports, but if he falls far enough in the draft, there’s a chance he will return to baseball, where he can keep his large upfront bonus.

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