NORMAN — Bob Stoops never has made a habit of comparing ballplayers, but some of us silly souls still give him the opportunity to shoot us down. So I asked Stoops on Wednesday if DeMarco Murray had a chance to be the second-best tailback of the 10-year Stoops era. And Stoops indeed wasn't buying the theory. But it wasn't because he thought the question was an affront to Quentin Griffin, who by any measurement is the No. 2 tailback of the 21st-century renaissance. Stoops considered it an affront to DeMarco Murray. Stoops started talking not about Murray and Griffin, but Murray and Adrian Peterson, saying "it's hard to say who's more talented.” Uh, what was that? You compare Peterson with Eric Dickerson, if not Sir Jimmy Brown himself. You don't compare the great Peterson — who twice dented NFL defenses for 200-yard games last autumn — to a kid whose next college start will be his second. But Stoops did. "DeMarco's got a chance to be a really special player,” Stoops said. "His upside is quite vast. "Adrian's talented in different ways. His endurance and strength is so different from anybody else. DeMarco maybe catches the ball better, maybe better at running routes. Just a different style than Adrian.” That crazy Stoops. You want him to admit that Murray is better than Griffin, one of only two all-Big 12 tailbacks of the last 10 years, and Stoops ends up saying Murray might be in Peterson's class. But this much is most definitely true. Murray has the chance to be a home-run hitter the likes of which the Sooners haven't seen in 25 years. Murray played just 11 games last season but went cross-country four times: a 92-yard run against Utah State, an 81-yard kickoff return at Tulsa, a 91-yard kickoff return versus Baylor and, just so you don't think Murray goes wild only on rumdums, a 65-yard run against Texas. OU hasn't seen such big-play power since Marcus Dupree's 1982 home run derby. Not even from Peterson. That's why we saw, and will see, Murray line up all over the field. Tailback. Flanker. Flanker in motion and take a pitch. Running backs coach Cale Gundy said OU has too many weapons — and maybe Murray has had too many injuries — to turn him into a 30-carries-a-game tailback. But the Sooners will try to get the ball in Murray's hands by any means possible. "Using him in different ways gives him a chance to make big plays,” Gundy said. Said Stoops, "He's such a good athlete. It's fun to watch him. He's got great hands. He's a guy who could be all-American at corner, receiver or running back. Or playing college basketball, if he wants.” Murray was a high school stud in both sports at Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas. But his freshman season never launched, because of turf toe, so when Peterson's junior season ended with a broken collarbone, Allen Patrick took over the tailback duties. Last season, Patrick, Murray and Chris Brown shared tailback duties, and Murray suffered a dislocated kneecap at Texas Tech and missed OU's final three games. But despite Murray's claim that OU will still use a tailback by committee (Mossis Madu to replace Patrick), make no mistake. The Sooners have a tailback star and will put him in the cleanup role so long as his health holds out. There could be no other destination for a tailback who draws comparisons to Adrian Peterson.
DeMarco Murray signs autographs for Sandy Crowder on Wednesday at Gaylord Family — Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. by CHRIS LANDSBERGER, THE OKLAHOMAN