Murray's loss hurts, but not as much as might be expected

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

DeMarco Murray's surgery next week will rob Oklahoma of its top breakaway threat in the backfield heading into the Jan. 8 FedEx BCS National Championship Game against Florida.

But it won't be as dramatic an injury as expected, mainly because of the Sooners' depth at the position.

Chris Brown has actually rushed for more yards than Murray this season and is a stronger between-the-tackles ball carrier.

And Mossis Madu emerged as a capable backup earlier this season, rushing for 463 yards and six touchdowns. While not as quick as Murray, he can provide a similar outside threat as when he rushed for 114 yards and three touchdowns against Missouri after Murray's injury.

Where Murray will be most missed will be as a versatile offensive weapon. He is Oklahoma's top kick returner and a capable receiver coming out of the backfield.

The Sooners will need somebody to emerge in his place on returns. It wouldn't surprise me if redshirt freshman Ryan Broyles would serve as a replacement along with Juaquin Iglesias.

It will mark the second serious injury of Murray's career after sustaining a dislocated kneecap late last season and missing the final three games. It caused him to miss the Sooners' Fiesta Bowl loss against West Virginia last season. He struggled returning to shape earlier this season, but finally seemed to be rounding into shape midway through the season.

Murray will be out of action for about five months, meaning he likely won't play much in spring practice. That might open a place for heralded freshmen like Jermie Calhoun and Justin Johnson to receive a long look in spring workouts.