Kendall Hunter or DeMarco Murray, who's the better running back?
The debate has raged among fans in this state for the last four years. At next week's scouting combine, the same debate will carry on among NFL scouts.
“It's a great question,” ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay told The Oklahoman on Wednesday. “I've gone back and forth.
“They're both very talented backs.”
Since 2007, the careers of Hunter and Murray have rolled along side-by-side. Both received Freshman All-American consideration after each ran for more than 690 yards and averaged at least 6.0 yards per carry.
Hunter left Oklahoma State as arguably the most prolific back to pass through Stillwater not named Thurman or Barry. Murray exited Oklahoma with the school's career touchdown and all-purpose yardage records.
Neither player has much chance of going in the first round. But either could “come off the board in that late-second-to-early third-round range,” McShay said.
But who will be drafted first?
Going into the combine, McShay gives the slight edge to Hunter
“I did a lot of running back tape last week and went back and just watched both of these players, and I wound up giving Kendall Hunter a slightly higher grade,” McShay said. “I think Hunter is probably more underrated, one of the more underrated backs in this year's class.”
Last season, Hunter rushed for 1,548 yards and 16 touchdowns and earned first-team All-American honors as OSU won 11 games for the first time in school history.
At 5-foot-8, 200 pounds, Hunter is not big, but is ultra quick and, as McShay points out, runs through tackles like a bigger-sized back.
“What separates him from a lot of backs is his strength,” McShay said. “He just runs so hard and is so much stronger than his frame would lead you to believe. That's what really impressed me the most about him.”
Like Hunter, Murray was impressive in the workouts leading up to the Senior Bowl three weeks ago. And with his ability to both catch out of the backfield and pick up blitzes in pass protection, Murray has a skill set that could make him a solid third-down back right away at the next level.
The combine will be important for both Bedlam backs, but especially for Murray, who, despite playing in every game last season and ranking seventh in the country in rushing attempts, continues to have durability concerns in the eyes of the scouts.
Should doctors discover any lingering issues from Murray's past injuries (which include a dislocated kneecap and a torn hamstring tendon) his draft stock could fall. At the same time, should he earn a clean bill of health, Murray's stock could also rise.
“When you look at it, I think Murray scares you a little bit more (than Hunter) in terms of the durability,” McShay said.
“Obviously, Murray's a great pass-catcher. He can give you a lot on third downs. I think he's a little bit of a narrow-based runner, if that makes sense. Runs a little bit high, takes a lot of shots to the body, has the durability issue, and that makes you nervous.”