Lincoln Riley: Kyler Murray 'is like Barry Sanders running with the football'

Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley said that Kyler Murray’s ability to run the football is similar to Barry Sanders. (Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley said that Kyler Murray’s ability to run the football is similar to Barry Sanders. (Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Kyler Murray has more than proved himself as a running quarterback.

Lincoln Riley, who coached the Heisman Trophy winner at Oklahoma, had nothing but confidence that Murray will succeed as a mobile quarterback in the NFL.

He also, though, had a pretty bold comparison when discussing the quarterback’s ground game on Friday.

“Athletically, there’s no comparison to this guy. This is like Barry Sanders running with the football as a quarterback,” Riley said on The Herd with Colin Cowherd. “I’m not saying he’s as good of a runner as Barry Sanders, but the guy has elite speed, elite quickness and has a feel for not taking big hits when he runs. Even though he ran more than Baker (Mayfield) did, he took way, way less hits because he is so athletically gifted, he just avoids them. He doesn’t take big shots, and he avoids them as well.”

Murray threw for 4,361 yards and 42 touchdowns last season for the Sooners, leading them to a College Football Playoff berth. He was a dominant runner, too, racking up 1,001 yards on 140 carries with 12 touchdowns. Only four quarterbacks in the FBS ran for more yards.

Sanders, who played at Oklahoma State from 1986-1988, ran for 2,628 yards and 37 touchdowns during his Heisman Trophy campaign in 1988.

The Hall of Famer racked up more than 15,200 rushing yards during his 10-year NFL career with the Detroit Lions and ran for at least 1,300 yards nine times. He reached the Pro Bowl in all 10 seasons he was in the league, too, and led the Lions to five playoff berths. Sanders is, naturally, widely considered to be one of the best running backs to ever play the game.

Even though Murray will likely never be as good of a runner as Sanders was — that’s a high bar to reach, especially for a quarterback — the comparison is definitely an interesting one.

And, perhaps most importantly, it can help fend critics off who cite Murray’s size as a reason to stay away from the quarterback in the NFL draft.

Murray, at 5-foot-10, 195 pounds, is significantly smaller than most quarterbacks in today’s NFL. Yet with his running ability — which Riley is clearly putting up with the best of them — and how he’s faired so far as a “short” quarterback, Riley doesn’t think that’s an issue.

Murray’s been short all of his life, he said, and look where that’s gotten him.

“He’s learned to deal with it. It’s not a factor for him,” Riley said on SiriusXM NFL Radio this week. “We had an NFL-sized offensive line. Played against a lot of really, really good defensive lines. I mean, the guy I think had four or five batted-down passes, I think, the whole season. It’s just not much of a factor, as much as people would think it is. We got to live that for really the last four years playing with what guys would consider short, prototypical quarterbacks, and it was never an issue for us.

“I think it’s something that will get made a lot of at draft time, and I think once Kyler starts playing, just like Baker, I don’t think it will be a factor at all.”

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