Perhaps the biggest addition for the Arizona Wildcats this offseason isn’t a recruit, but the new running backs coach. DeMarco Murray, a three-time Pro Bowler and former star running back at Oklahoma (where his offensive coordinator was Kevin Sumlin), joined the Wildcats staff to coach his former position.
Murray spoke to the press Thursday about his first coaching gig, Tucson and how spring practice is going so far. Here is his full interview along with the transcription.
DeMarco Murray on his new gig, recruiting, and Kevin Sumlin:Posted by AZ Desert Swarm on Thursday, March 28, 2019
Q: What would you say is the main reason that you decided to get into coaching?
A: I think the main reason was just having a chance to relate to kids. I mean, I’ve had a foundation my entire life, my entire career. Also having the opportunity to work with Coach Sumlin. I’ve known him since I was 17 years old, great guy and we’ve always stayed in touch, [even] after he went to Houston and after I graduated. The two factors of knowing him and knowing that this team is a great team. They had a lot of young players, J.J. [Taylor], a whole stable of backs. To have an opportunity to come in coach at such a young age and kind of get going and learn from a guy like Coach Sumlin and Coach [Noel] Mazzone was something that impacted the decision.
Q: What do you remember about [Coach Sumlin] when he was recruiting you?
A: He was the same guy he is today. He’s not a screamer, he’s not a yeller, extremely smart when it comes to X’s and O’s, and he’s a people person, a player’s coach. I’m just remembering the time we had in Norman, the two years that we were both there, everyone loved him. I know the receivers, Joaquin Iglesias, Malcolm Kelly, those guys loved him and they played extremely hard for him.
Q: Did [Coach Sumlin] recruit you all over again [in bringing Murray onto the coaching staff]?
A: (laughing) He did and he’s good at it, I can tell you that. He didn’t have to do too much recruiting because this is a place where I want to be. It’s just a family atmosphere here and lots of mental talent when it comes to X’s and O’s, and offensively having the chance to work with Coach Mazzone and the rest of the group is pretty special.
Q: You were off to a good start with your broadcasting career, broadcasting games for Fox. Why not continue to do that instead of something like this?
A: That was the plan, that was the plan, and to get into coaching at 34, 35, later down the road, but like I said this is an opportunity I felt would benefit me individually, and collectively as a team I knew I could come in and help the guys and help this team. It was something I wanted to do, if anyone else had called me I probably wouldn’t have taken the job, but knowing Coach Sumlin, knowing what he’s about and the man he is, that was one of the main reasons.
Q: Did you miss the competitive element of football?
A: I did. Doing the whole broadcast deal, we call a game, there wasn’t much competitiveness to it. Having this opportunity to really dive into the film, dive into players individually, and sit back and learn — from the passing game to the protection game — It’s been an awesome experience thus far, and I’m extremely excited to be on this team and will hopefully help us win.
Q: You look like you can still play...
A: I’m trying to stay in shape, trying not to get the coaching body, the dad bod (laughs).
Q: What is it like being back on a college campus?
A: It’s great. I’m originally from Vegas so I’m used to the heat. Spent a little time down here, doing some 7 on 7 stuff back in the high school days. It’s an awesome, beautiful campus, you know obviously the weather is awesome, and I’m extremely excited to be here.
Q: How would you describe your coaching style so far, especially in regards to your playing career and the respect your name carries?
A: I would say I’m laid back until I’m not when they make a mistake, or if they do something I feel they shouldn’t. I’m not a big yeller, not a screamer. For me, it’s just about teaching them the right things, the right mechanics of the game, making sure they take what we learn in the classroom and put it on the field. Some guys learn better on film, some learn better from reps, so I try and find who’s good at what, so I can get better and let them get better.
Q: Coach Sumlin has said he’ll put you in charge of recruiting cities like Dallas and Las Vegas. What is your message to recruits in the Southwest on why they should come to Arizona?
A: I’m new to this deal. I’ve got Dallas, I’ve got Las Vegas, and I’ve also got Tucson. If you want to play for the right guy with the right attitude, a winning personality, that’s Coach Sumlin. Look at what he’s done at Houston, look at what he’s done at [Texas] A&M. Last year was his first year, he kind of got into it late, but he’s starting to build with the right pieces, the right kind of players.
Q: How much has the recruiting process changed since you went through it?
A: (laughs) A lot. Now you gotta text, you can’t call. I’m still trying to learn the rules every single day, checking in with our guys to make sure I’m not doing anything illegal. We got a great staff here to make sure we know the rules in and out. It’s changed a lot with the whole social media aspect and things of that nature. I don’t spend too much time on my phone but now I find myself on it quite a bit just to relate to the kids a little. It’s something that’s changed, but you gotta move with the times and you gotta adapt.
Q: Is J.J. Taylor different physically than some of the other backs you’ve coached before?
A: Yeah, he’s different. He’s a smaller guy, but he runs with a full load. He’s a guy that can run, he’s a guy that can catch, he’s extremely intelligent, and something about him is he’s a true competitor. Obviously in spring ball we’re not trying to force them in there or try and get them beat up, and most running backs would say to that ‘alright, I’m good.’ But he’s a guy you gotta constantly talk to him because he wants to be in there and compete at a high level. He’s an intelligent young man with a bright future and he’s leading the team the right way.
Q: What is the main message you convey to your running back room?
A: Compete at a high level. The game can be taken away so drastically, and you gotta be able to compete and have fun. At the end of the day I want my guys to work hard, play hard, and compete at a high level. For a running back, blocking, running, catching, I want a guy who can do all three things, a guy who can do it all. We have a lot of great backs who are doing an amazing job this spring, competing, and doing a lot of the right things on and off the field.
Q: When you look at the backfield, how many of the players do you think you could beat in a race?
A: (laughs) I mean I still work out, so I would say all of them. I wouldn’t want to do it, but I’m confident.
Q: What are some strengths and weaknesses you see in the other running backs besides J.J. Taylor?
A: They’re all bright kids, all great kids. When I took the job, the one message I got from all the staff is ‘you’ve got a great running back room, off the field and on the field.’ They’re tremendous workers, give great effort at all times. With a running back, it’s not like a receiver where there’s three or four guys out on the field at a time, it’s one guy for a running back. I can say they’re all selfless guys, they’re all pulling for each other. That’s the kind of room I’ve always been a part of, so it’s nice to have one here. We have a tremendous leader in JJ, but Gary [Brightwell] is another leader for us. Nathan [Tilford] is stepping up, Bam [Smith] is stepping up. Bryce Coleman and Nazar [Bombata], you know they’re walk-ons, but they plays as if they’re on scholarship. We’ve got a lot of talent, lot of talent, and they’re all rooting for each other, so that’s something I can appreciate.
Q: Being a running back, what’s your impression of Khalil Tate when he puts the ball down and runs?
A: He’s special. He’s a guy, besides Marcus Mariota, who’s extremely fast, who impresses me. Watching [Mariota], it’s effortless, and it’s the same way with Khalil. When he puts the ball down, he runs so smooth and effortless, with so much speed he’s not getting caught. He’s a guy that obviously can be special, he juts has to continue to work hard. He’s also a strong guy, I’m impressed with that. Hopefully he doesn’t have to break a lot of tackles, we’re always trying to tell him to slide, and not to get hit.