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OU football: Chris Murray nearing opportunity as Creed Humphrey's successor on Sooners' resurgent offensive line

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Brey Walker, Chris Murray and Chandler Morries

Then-redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Brey Walker and then-junior offensive lineman Chris Murray celebrate after then-freshman quarterback Chandler Morris scores a touchdown during the game against Kansas on Nov. 7, 2020.

Chris Murray thinks of Creed Humphrey as an older brother.

Last season, as he led OU’s offensive line and was named the Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year in the process, Humphrey mentored Murray every chance he could. In such moments, Murray wanted to learn as much as possible from the Sooners’ third-year starting center.

In fact, learning is all Murray could really do in 2020. The Palmdale, California, native transferred to Oklahoma from UCLA that April, and wasn’t granted  eligibility until October, sidelining him for the Sooners’ first four games. From there, he appeared in just five games as Oklahoma’s reserve right tackle.

Murray said that, compiled with the stresses of COVID-19 canceling spring practices and limiting summer workouts, it was one of the most frustrating times of his life. Fearing he wasn’t helping his team enough, Murray started taking advantage of every opportunity, whether it be listening to Humphrey’s advice or suiting up for OU’s scout team.

Now, as the Sooners enter their second week of 2021 spring practice, Murray is inching his way closer to becoming Humprehy’s successor. Through displays of his athletic talent and intelligence at center this offseason, the senior has impressed offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh, who’s looking to build his unit back into the country’s best.

“The one thing about playing football is it teaches you about life,” Bedenbaugh said in a press conference on Wednesday. “(Murray) never complained. I was talking to him and his mom throughout the process. … It was a tough situation, but the kid handled it really well. It's showing up right now in what he's doing, how he's playing.

“Playing this position at this level, and at the standards that we have, is tough. You go from being a good player to an elite great player just by your mentality and how you approach every day. I think that's the biggest thing I've seen in change, and I'm preaching it and they're getting it. As long as it continues to evolve and develop, I do think we've got a chance to be a really, really good group.”

Bedenbaugh, who joined OU in 2013, has coached a multitude of NFL talent in his time with the Sooners. His 2018 offensive line alone featured Bobby Evans, Ben Powers, Dru Samia and Cody Ford, all of whom currently reside on NFL rosters. Humphrey also started as the group’s center. That unit also took home the Joe Moore Award, which is annually given to college football’s best offensive line.

Still, Bedenbaugh said he wasn’t completely satisfied with OU’s play that season. But, that’s how he feels every season. No matter how OU performs, Bedenbaugh is known for highlighting ways the team could’ve done better.

And his players are the same way. Murray said while he’s well aware of the public expectations that surround the Sooners’ offensive line, the expectations within his team are even higher.

“Coach says you’re as strong as your weakest link, and that’s facts,” Murray said on Wednesday. “We’ve just really been working on getting to know each other. ... Football is a team sport. As far as offensive line goes, you’re depending on four other people besides yourself. If that chemistry isn’t good between each other, you can only go so far. 

“I’m just trying to become the best player I can for my teammates. It was a long couple months, but patience is a virtue… I’m glad I was patient, because it’s going to pay off. I know it is.”

Chandler Engelbrecht is a journalism junior and the Daily's assistant sports editor. He currently covers OU football and has previously covered OU men's basketball, volleyball and men's gymnastics.

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