It's generally assumed that Kyler Murray will be Oklahoma's starting quarterback in 2018.
Sooners coach Lincoln Riley doesn't see it that way -- publicly, at least -- with Murray and redshirt sophomore Austin Kendall expected to battle for the gig this summer.
Speaking to reporters at Big 12 Media Days, Riley made it clear that Murray hasn't been named the starter heading into preseason camp. Riley was asked how Oklahoma's offense will change with Murray behind center, to which he responded "Kyler's not the quarterback yet."
Lincoln Riley when asked how the offense will change with Kyler Murray at quarterback.— Sooner Gridiron (@soonergridiron) July 16, 2018
"Kyler's not the quarterback yet. There's a really good competition going on and Kyler's gonna have to fight like crazy to win this job."#Sooners #Big12MediaDays pic.twitter.com/U2NFObiL6Z
Murray is a more gifted athlete and more creative player than Kendall. However, if Oklahoma's spring game was any indication, Kendall has shown the potential to move the offense just as well as -- if not slightly better than -- Murray.
Normally, a routine offseason competition like this would bleed into preseason camp with a Week 1 starter established sometime halfway through practices. What complicates this matter is Murray's upcoming professional baseball career.
He was drafted ninth overall by the Oakland Athletics in early June and earned a bonus in the neighborhood of $4.7 million. He was, briefly, earning more than Riley before a raise bumped the coach's salary at $4.8 million for 2018. Murray made it clear right away he planned on playing football this year with his baseball career coming later.
Presumably, Murray didn't come back to college to play for free so that he could hold a clipboard -- even though long-term that's the safer option. Remember, this is a former five-star recruit with one of the most accomplished two-sport high school careers the state of Texas has ever produced. And yet, his college years include part-time starting status at Texas A&M, a transfer, and a backup role. Murray is coming back because he wants to prove he can play quarterback at the highest level of college football before he inevitably goes with his more natural fit in baseball.
In that regard, Riley's comment makes some sense because Murray has likely embraced that mindset.
On the other hand, if Murray's future is with baseball, there are arguments to be made that Kendall makes more sense -- especially if the competition is as close as it looked. As Barton Simmons explained last month: "If Murray starts for Oklahoma this fall and heads to the baseball diamond, Oklahoma is looking at three starting quarterbacks in three years in 2019. That year will see Kendall finally get his turn or lose the job to either 2018 signee Tanner Mordecai or 2019 commit Spencer Rattler."
Ultimately, a lot of signs point to Murray starting for Oklahoma this fall. Riley's comments don't quite reach "lip service" level -- there is some truth to what he's saying -- but it would nevertheless be surprising if Murray didn't win the starting job. But really, how Riley uses Murray and Kendall to keep them both engaged is what may develop into the more interesting storyline as the season progresses.