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  • This week's #DearAndy mailbag examines how tall Kyler Murray really is—and shows why when you watch his Oklahoma tape, it may not matter. Plus, thoughts on the strength of the ACC and bowl bumps for next year's preseason top 25s.
By Andy Staples
January 17, 2019

Reigning Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray entered his name into the NFL draft, and you have questions…

From @thuringwethil66: How tall do you think Kyler Murray really is?

I’ve stood next to Murray multiple times, and I think the 5'10" figure that gets thrown out most often is pretty accurate. Oklahoma sports information director Mike Houck got into fractions with this tweet earlier this week, and as someone who is 6'2 3/4" and says 6'3" when asked his height, I heartily support Murray’s right to round up.

The concern over Murray’s height feels unnecessary. I realize there is a reason the NFL hasn’t been overrun with sub-six-foot quarterbacks, but his combination of arm strength and mobility should negate any concerns about his height as he decides whether to play professional football or baseball. The “HE CAN’T SEE OVER THE LINE” crowd hasn’t paid much attention to how football actually works.

Here’s a screen shot of an adequately blocked pass play for 5'11" Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. Notice there are two massive lanes for him to look through. 

This happens on pretty much every play. The offensive linemen don’t link arms and stand five abreast. They can’t. They’d get the QB sacked on every play if they did. The natural motion of the blockers as they fan out to pick up rushers creates the lines of sight for a quarterback—no matter his height. (Unless he’s Brock Osweiler. Then he just sees all. And how’s that working out?) So Murray’s height isn’t as big of an issue as we’re making it out to be.

Also, his mobility makes him better equipped than most giant quarterbacks when protection breaks down. Watch this throw he makes to Charleston Rambo after escaping Alabama’s Anfernee Jennings in the Orange Bowl. This ball travels 49 yards in the air. Most quarterbacks can’t make this throw. Murray didn’t just have the athletic ability to get away. He had the arm talent to deliver the pass.

Murray also is decisive and delivers the ball quickly, which also is one of the best attributes of Oklahoma predecessor Baker Mayfield. So that should alleviate concerns that he would rather run around and wait for the perfect window to open. On this touchdown pass to tight end Grant Calcaterra in the Big 12 title game, Murray throws to the window that’s available. It’s tiny, but he hits it and Calcaterra makes a great catch.

Murray’s height won’t affect his ability to do that. I am curious to see—should he choose to go to the NFL combine rather than report to spring training with the Oakland A’s—what Murray weighs. He’s listed at 195 but seems slimmer. The biggest difference between Murray and the aforementioned Wilson is thickness. Wilson has huge hands and huge thighs. He weighed 204 at the combine in 2011 and the Seahawks list him at 215 now. That makes a difference in terms of durability.

ROSENBERG: Kyler Murray Should Play Football, the Sport He Actually Wants to Play

Still, Murray isn’t the type of runner who seeks out unnecessary contact. When he scrambles, it’s usually with a preference to stay behind the line of scrimmage and throw to an open receiver. So even though he is slighter than most NFL quarterbacks, he probably isn’t going to take as many crushing hits because of his preferred style and because of his elite speed.

From Tim: The ACC has won three of the last six national championships. The SEC has two and the Big Ten only one. Clemson has a good shot at one or two more over the next couple years. Yet the ACC is still the Rodney Dangerfield of Power 5 conferences. Why is that?

Tim, you must be talking to people who don’t actually watch college football because people who do don’t view the ACC that way. Yes, the league was weaker top-to-bottom in 2018 than it has been in years, but that’s probably an anomaly due to Bobby Petrino quitting well before he got fired at Louisville and a horrific first year for Willie Taggart at Florida State. Plus, as everyone saw last week when Clemson demolished Alabama, the ACC absolutely had the nation’s best team in 2018.

The ACC has come a long way from the BCS era, when it was the poster child for conference mediocrity. As the playoff era dawned, it got better at the top and deeper in the middle. It got better in its annual rivalry games against SEC teams. Clemson and Florida State turned losing streaks against South Carolina and Florida into dominant winning streaks. (Florida struck back against Florida State this year, but the Gamecocks remain well behind the Tigers.) The real issue now has been consistency among the programs not named Clemson.

North Carolina broke through with a Coastal Division title in 2015 and then fell off a cliff. NC State has had its moments but keeps losing to Wake Forest and got shelled by Texas A&M in the Belk Bowl. Virginia Tech seemed to be back to its consistently competent ways in Justin Fuente’s first two years, but the Hokies went 6–7 in 2018. Miami rose and then fell again, and the Hurricanes are hoping Manny Diaz can produce a more consistent product.

What should be exciting for the league is that Scott Satterfield will get Louisville going quickly. Florida State will bounce back—either because Taggart engineered a turnaround or because the Seminoles found someone who could. What Dino Babers is doing at Syracuse looks sustainable, and Pittsburgh seemed to finally find itself in the back half of 2018. (Even though the Panthers are undergoing another offensive overhaul this offseason.)

The ACC isn’t anywhere close to the Rodney Dangerfield of Power 5 leagues. That’s clearly the Pac-12. And not Back To School, triple-lindy Rodney Dangerfield. We’re talking Ladybugs, just-here-for-the-check-and-the-chance-to-hang-with-Jackee Rodney Dangerfield.

Order SI’s Clemson National Championship Covers Here

From Kramer: Who will receive the biggest “bowl bump” in preseason rankings and then underwhelm because a bowl from last season isn’t predictive? (It’s gonna be Auburn.)

I don’t think it’ll be Auburn, even though the Tigers’ 63–14 demolition of Purdue was quite impressive. Auburn had so much turmoil going into that game with the departure of offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey—who took the same job at Kansas and then left Lawrence to be Troy’s head coach—and with the official resumption of playcalling by head coach Gus Malzahn that the bowl game felt more like a catharsis than an omen of things to come. The Tigers had heard only bad things for a month, and they blasted out that negative energy by blasting Purdue. But I still think the general consensus going into the season will be that Auburn is, at best, the third-best team in the SEC West and the fifth-best team in the SEC. (Which is why Auburn probably will win 11 games next season.)

I do think Kramer got the division right for his bowl bump prediction, though. I’m guessing Texas A&M will get a lot of offseason buzz following its 52–13 demolition of nine-win NC State in the Gator Bowl. I can just hear it now—perhaps because I’ll probably be one of the people saying it over the next few months.

You know, Jimbo Fisher just needed those extra bowl practices to get those guys to understand what he was saying.

That three-game win streak to end the season is going to carry over into offseason workouts and all the way to September.

The Aggies have to replace their top rusher (Trayveon Williams) and their top receiver (Jace Sternberger), but Kevin Sumlin did not leave the cupboard bare, and Fisher’s staff started recruiting well almost immediately. But that schedule, yikes.

Texas A&M plays at Clemson in Week 2. Auburn comes to College Station in Week 4. Alabama still exists and is still coached by Nick Saban. The Aggies close the regular season with visits to Georgia and LSU. So they may not see much difference in the win-loss record even if they do get better. And that won’t jibe with the inevitable bowl bump the Aggies will get courtesy of their thrashing of the Wolfpack in Jacksonville.

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