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Oklahoma football: Kenneth Murray shows growth, shines as true freshman

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Kenneth Murray

Freshman linebacker Kenneth Murray warms up before the game against Ohio State Sept. 9.

Freshman linebacker Kenneth Murray was the talk of fall camp this year, and he hasn't disappointed now that the season's begun.

A four-star recruit from Missouri City, Texas, Murray has started both games for No. 2 Oklahoma (2-0). Starting in itself is an accomplishment for Murray, as he's the first true freshman to start a season opener at middle linebacker for OU since 1975. This is also impressive because he's starting at middle linebacker, the most difficult linebacker position.

“It feels pretty good," Murray said. "I made big strides between the first and second game. I think I’ve still got some work to do, still got some stuff to clean up but I’ve got the greatest coach in the world in coach (Tim) Kish. He’s always getting me right so I think I’m going to be straight.”

In his first college game against UTEP, Murray recorded three tackles. At the time, the game was still moving too fast for Murray and he wasn't able to play at the speed he wanted. 

“I think I went out there way too hyped that first series," Murray said. "It was (my) first college game and I went out there way too hyped, not calm, so I wasn’t able to see most of my keys and stuff like that. I definitely learned.”

Then, he went to Columbus, Ohio, and played in front of over 100,000 fans. A stage that could've wreaked havoc on a veteran linebacker's nerves had no effect on Murray. Instead of shying away from the pressure he embraced it, recording five tackles in the Sooners' 31-16 win over the Buckeyes.

Murray said he was able to keep his emotions in check pregame, which helped him focus on his assignments. Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops could tell the difference in his performance, saying Murray's improvements were vast from the first game to the second.

“Kenneth learns every time he steps on the field. It’s going to be a growing situation for him, but he’s a quick learner and it’s important to him," Stoops said. "There’s times where you want him to be more aggressive and see things quicker, but that’s just part of being a true freshman. What we’re asking him to do is very difficult, but he played better than he did the first week against a totally different opponent and a great football team. He ain’t scared, you know what I mean? He has to learn how to see things and that’s just repetition and experience and that’s the only thing he lacks.”

Murray's next learning experience will come at 5 p.m. CT Saturday when the Sooners play Tulane in Norman.

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