Orange Bowl Players To Watch
QB Tua Tagovailoa, Soph. Alabama: Yes, his ankle is fine. At least it’s supposed to be. And now, with the time off to rest and recharge, he has to find the form that had the Heisman won before the problems in the SEC Championship against Georgia.
He didn’t throw an interception in the first eight games, and threw just two picks on the year before giving up two against the Bulldogs. When he gets time, forget it. He’s deadly accurate, hits his guys on the move, and has the uncanny ability to put the ball anywhere he wants. If there’s one guy in college football who can keep up with Kyler Murray in a shootout, it’s Tua.
DT Quinnen Wiliams, Soph. Alabama: There’s a reasonable case to be made that Williams was the team’s best player this season. The dominant force on the defensive interior wrecked game after game with 66 tackles, eight sacks, and 18 tackles for loss.
He turned into everyone’s All-American, the best defensive lineman in college football, and an almost certain top five overall draft pick. With his fire, his motor, and his quickness off the ball, he’s going to be in Murray’s face all game long.
QB Kyler Murray, Jr. Oklahoma: All the guy had to do was replace one of the all-time greatest college football quarterbacks coming off an all-time great season. And all Murray did was improve on what Baker Mayfield accomplished, winning the Heisman, taking down the Big 12 title, and completing 71% of his passes for over 4,000 yards with 40 touchdowns and seven picks, while also running for 892 yards and 11 scores.
The bulk isn’t there, and he’s a wisp of a player, but he’s lightning fast when he decides to take off, too quick for most pass rushers to get to, and he’s scary-accurate at hitting his guys on the move. That’s all great, but now he has to do even more and carry the OU offense to a trip to the national championship.
LB Kenneth Murray, Soph. Oklahoma: The numbers are there, even if the big stops for the defense tend to come a bit down the field for the linebacking due of Curtis Bolton and Kenneth Murray. Bolton finished second on the team with 130 tackles and 11.5 tackles for loss. Murray made 140 stops and 12 tackles for loss – they both had four sacks. A tackling machine, Murray ended up with 28 stops against Army and hit the double-digit mark eight times.