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RB Recruit Deshun Murrell on Top Two, Closing in on Commitment

Verbal commitment, signing ceremony expected next week

West Coast or East Coast? Pac-12 or Big Ten?

These are the base level questions Deshun Murrell and his camp are digging into less than two weeks before the Alabama running back prospect's decision is expected. 

The 5-foot-11, 185-pounder backed off of a commitment to UCLA in late November and is looking to make a final decision on December 18, when he will commit and sign with his program of choice. 

It is now likely down to just two programs though there is some time for others to make a late run. 

"UCLA and Penn State," Murrell told SI All-American. "I think this week is going to be the week where I make my cuts because next Friday I'll be committing. So I'll be getting all the information I can between them and any other schools that may potentially be interested in me. 

"Michigan State and Iowa reached out and discussed an offer, they say they'll continue to get to know me."

Of course the class of 2021 is unique in circumstances due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its relation to the NCAA Dead Period. Prospects like the standout senior haven't been able to take official visits or have any in-person contact with college coaches for some 10 months now. 

Murrell will sign with a program he has never seen in person. It forces maximum communication and the use of technology to attempt to be as comfortable as possible with a coaching staff, university and everything in between.

"I've already set up Zoom calls with the schools I'm interested in," he said. "I didn't wanna make the list too big because I know I'm not going to some of these schools, so I don't want to make it hard on myself. I've had a Zoom with them already, but I plan on another so I can take notes on paper and compare the schools. 

"I wrote down 20 to 25 questions on what is important to me for a university. Can I run track while I'm there? Is there a one-year master's program? Is there an FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes)? What is the student to faculty ratio? How powerful is the degree? Most of the football stuff speaks for itself."

While being committed to the Bruins for more than five months, Murrell grew comfortable with Chip Kelly and his staff. The decommitment was more about addressing newer options, like Penn State, before making things official. 

"I wanted to see if I was absolutely 100% comfortable with being there," he said. "All we have with these schools is phone contact and then I give the next four to five years of my life to these schools. It's different than in-person contact."

James Franklin and Penn State offered about two weeks prior to Murrell's decommitment. 

"Penn State, it's obviously the culture and what they've been able to do in the past," he said. "This year is not really the same for anybody. Also the atmosphere, there are very few places like that for home games on that big of a scale. And they've been great with running backs."

Some three-dozen programs have offered Murrell a scholarship to date and he backed it up as a senior at Centreville (Ala.) Bibb County, rushing for more than 230 yards per game in 2020.  

On the track, the senior sprinter is top 10 in Alabama in the 400 meter dash with a PR of 49.93 seconds in the event. He also runs the 100 and 200, where his 22.51 PR is top 20 in the state. 

Both UCLA and Penn State recognize the short and long speed and think Murrell fits into the new age style the running back position demands. 

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"They want to use me similarly because of my play style," he said. "I'm more of a speed back and teams look at me as a complete back because I can catch. I run behind my pads but my best trait and everything is my speed."

The track-and-field element in this recruitment will play a major role in the final decision, but also in how genuine the football approach to participating in a secondary sport comes off.

"One of the big things for me is being able to run track," Murrell said. "Some schools say they're fine with me running track but they would prefer for me not to run track. That is kind of a red flag because obviously on campus you're gonna do what the coaches want you to do. I want to be able to compete in track but I also believe it will feel right. 

"A lot of guys I've heard of says it just feels right with a school. I've got to pray about it a lot because God is ultimately the one who will guide me to this decision."

While many prospects have shown public frustration with how the pandemic has affected the recruiting process, something Murrell cited in-part when he posted news of his decommitment on Twitter, one of Alabama's top seniors admits the stresses of the decision-making process have waned of late. 

"For any younger guys, just always go to Christ in times like this," he said. "It's one big decision you can't really make on your own. If you try to, it can end up very bad for you. Try your best to just let go and let God. 

"I was stressing about my situation for a while and now I'm more relaxed about it. I was able to calm down and think straight with my plan going forward." 

Murrell plans on studying architecture or engineering in college.

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