Murray showing signs of former self
GRAND FORKS -- The ball popped out of his grasp twice during the University of North Dakota's first spring scrimmage, but there still were signs that Josh Murray will be able to help UND as the Sioux enter their third Division I FCS season in Sep...
GRAND FORKS -- The ball popped out of his grasp twice during the University of North Dakota's first spring scrimmage, but there still were signs that Josh Murray will be able to help UND as the Sioux enter their third Division I FCS season in September.
But those signs are just that -- signs.
The UND running back from Pepin, Wis., missed all of last season due to academic reasons after rushing for a team-high 1,146 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2008. If he's ready to go in the fall, Murray and Mitch Sutton -- last year's Great West Conference freshman of the year -- could give the Sioux a 1-2 punch at running back that UND hasn't seen in recent seasons.
"If he's eligible, we look forward to having him back," UND coach Chris Mussman said. "We're better with him. He'll push Mitch and he'll make him a better running back. But he still has some work do to."
Murray is practicing with the Sioux during spring ball.
But a determination of his eligibility likely won't come until the fall.
In the meantime, Murray is enjoying his return to the field.
"The year off took its toll," Murray said after the scrimmage. "It's good to be back out there with the guys."
Murray said he didn't like sitting out the 2009 season.
"I was at every game I could make," Murray said. "It was heartbreaking to sit out. I definitely learned my lesson. This is actually what I needed, to step back from football and refocus on everything.
"It worked out better for me."
Murray fumbled twice during the scrimmage. But he did a have a few carries that were reminiscent of his 2008 season, one in which he led the Sioux with 1,582 all-purpose yards. He also was the team's leading punt returner.
"Josh is a little rusty," Mussman said. "But that's to be expected. He hasn't played football in over a year. He still has some work to do."
The Sioux offense also has some work to do as it is going against an experienced UND defense in spring ball.
"When we go with our twos and threes on offense, it's kids out there who have never played," Mussman said. "When our twos and threes are out there on defense, there are a lot of kids out there that played a lot of football last year.
"I expect a marked improvement from our offense this week."
And that includes Murray, who is still trying to get up to speed.
"We're coming around," Murray said.
Nelson is the Sports Editor of the Grand Forks Herald, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.