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Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Ranking the Big 12's best players: No. 19

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

The official list of the Big 12's top 25 players is locked away in a vault in an undisclosed location, but we're revealing the list day by day here on the blog. Here's a refresher on my exact criteria.

DeMarco Murray
DeMarco Murrary's versatility made him a valuable part of Oklahoma's offense.
No. 19: DeMarco Murray, RB, Oklahoma

2010 numbers: Murray ran for 1,214 yards and 15 touchdowns on 282 carries. He also caught 71 passes for 594 yards and five touchdowns.

Most recent ranking: Murray was No. 8 in our preseason list of the Big 12's top 25 players.

Making the case for Murray: He didn't quite hit the 1,900-yard rushing mark that coach Bob Stoops tossed out over the summer, but if you add his receiving yards, his 1,808 total yards are pretty close. That, more than anything, is what makes Murray so valuable. His yards per carry (4.34 in 2010, 4.18 in 2009) has never been fantastic, but no running back in the Big 12 catches the ball better than Murray. Yes, a lot of those receptions are out of the backfield, but yards are yards, and the gap between him and the rest of the league's backs when he lines up in the slot is enormous. His 71 receptions are No. 10 in the Big 12. By comparison, that's one fewer than both Jeff Fuller and Ryan Swope, and three fewer than No. 25 on our list, Lyle Leong. Add in his rushing yardage, sixth in the Big 12, and you get a very valuable player. Oklahoma's fast-moving, high-powered offense gives him more touches and more chances to rack up yardage than other running backs on this list, but Murray will leave Oklahoma this season after being one of the league's best backs in all four of his years on the field.

The rest of the list: