1,000 Yards from Norman: DeMarco Murray to Miss National Championship Game

Louis WallerContributor IDecember 16, 2008

The first cut is the deepest.  On Dec. 22, the surgeon's cut on DeMarco Murray's torn hamstring will be collectively felt by the Sooner Nation.

Murray injured his left hamstring on the opening kickoff of the Big XII Championship game.  After what seemed like a routine tackle, Murray came hobbling off the field and was initially diagnosed with a deep bruise to his left leg.  After an MRI was performed on Dec. 8, the doctors found the tear in Murray's hamstring.

"Obviously we're very disappointed for DeMarco,” said head coach Bob Stoops.  "He has been an important part of our success this year and we will miss his contributions."

Indeed they will.  Murray was the leading rusher for the Sooners entering the Big XII Championship game. He and teammate Chris Brown had both rushed for over 1,000 yards this season.  While Brown was the between the tackles runner, Murray gave the Sooners a home run threat from the running back position.

As it so often is with good players, there are other facets of Murray's game that will be sorely missed.  He led the team with 2,171 all-purpose yards (kickoff return yards of 774 and receiving yards of 395).  

All the above can be filed under the "obvious" category.  How does this really affect the Sooner offense?  There are several offensive sets the Sooners use with an empty backfield with Murray split out as a receiver.  Third team back Mossis Madu filled that slot at the Big XII Championship but wasn't thrown to.

When the Sooners run the hurry up offense and the running back is used to pick up blitzes, who will that be? Madu certainly doesn't have the game experience that Brown has, but if Brown is used in those situations, does it become predictable? Will it give Florida a "tell" and allow them to change pass coverages and blitz packages?  

The biggest concern will be for Heisman Award winner Sam Bradford.  Murray accounted for an astounding 31 percent of the offensive production this season.  Does this put even more pressure on Bradford?  The short answer: YES.  Murray has been phenomenal in setting Bradford up with manageable second down situations.  It remains to be seen if Brown and Madu have the same capability.  

Bradford has been an amazingly good decision maker, but not having the security blanket of Murray could make him force throws to receivers he wouldn't normally make.  One thing it will do: If Brown and Madu aren’t capable of setting up Bradford with manageable second and third downs, he will be fed a steady diet of blitz packages from the Gator defense.