The Raiders have added running backs Trent Richardson and Roy Helu Jr. to their backfield this offseason, but neither is expected to be Oakland’s No. 1 ballcarrier in 2015.
That role is expected to be filled by Latavius Murray.
And Murray is excited by the prospect.
After two seasons in the NFL, Murray is preparing himself for a big season. He’s eager to build off the final few games of 2014 when he finally got the chance to carry the ball and showed the Raiders he can be an impact running back.
“It’s a great feeling, but every day I have to go in there knowing I need to get better every day,” Murray said this week during his team’s kickoff to the first session of organized team activities (OTAs). “I need to play like it’s a new year. Last season is just last season, and the year before that it was the year before that. Every season is a new year for me and it’s a year I have to go out and prove something.”
Last season, Murray played in 15 games. But many of those were token appearances. It wasn’t until November that he finally got a chance to start a game. Once he got his opportunity, he made the most of it. He picked up 112 yards vs. the Chiefs and had 76- and 86-yard games against the 49ers and Bills. Over his final five games in 2014, Murray carried 72 times for 370 yards, two touchdowns and a 5.1-yard average per carry.
The Raiders see Murray, 24, as a bruising (6-foot-3, 230-pound) back who’s able to gain yards after contact and also pick up big yards with his speed (he has a 4.38 time in the 40-yard dash).
Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie drafted Murray in the sixth round of the 2013 draft after Murray had a standout career at Central Florida. In college, he had 2,424 yards rushing, scored 37 touchdowns and also caught 50 passes.
Now Murray has a taste of success, and he wants more.
“Getting a chance to start three games, it’s something that I definitely want to continue to build off of,” he told the team’s website. “I had that mentality in the offseason just to prepare to be the No. 1 guy and play that way and train that way.”
The Raiders brought in Richardson, once a top prospect out of Alabama, to see if he can recapture the form he once had as an All-American for the Crimson Tide. But right now, the starting running back job is Murray’s to lose.
New head coach Jack Del Rio likes what he’s seen of Murray, but isn’t ready to just hand him the job. He wants a competition.
“I think he has shown enough of the traits to make him a candidate to be that guy,” Del Rio told the San Francisco Chronicle. “I don’t know if he’s earned that yet. He’s shown that there is potential there. He’s done enough things to pique your interest. He’s got size and speed. He can go.”