Football, Top Story

Tyler Murphy May Shift His Focus On The Field

Tyler Murphy drops back five yards. Josh Bordner cuts across the middle of the field and Murphy rifles a pass across his body, right into the chest of his ex-teammate—a slight wobble, but on target. Nearby scouts barely flinch—one keeps talking to a peer next to him while he tosses another ball to Murphy.

The process repeats, this time with Jarrett Darmstatter lined up tight on the right hash mark. Again, Murphy falls into position, targeting the ball perfectly about 10 yards downfield. And again, no reaction from the men who hold Murphy’s football future in their hands.

Murphy then turns to the deep ball, lofting one up for Shakim Phillips, who dashes 40 yards down the sidelines. The spiral tightens midair, landing cleanly in Phillips’ arms. A couple of scouts murmur and point, nodding with approval. They want to see if the man who only once completed more than 15 passes in a game for the Eagles—never once surpassing 200 yards through the air—can repeat a throw like that.

Murphy dances back again, pump fakes, and eyes Bordner on a deep fade route to his left. This time, the ball clanks off the industrial lift, emitting a loud metallic sound that reverberates through the bubble over Alumni Stadium.

Most of the scouts shrug, returning their attention to center Andy Gallik. The quarterback, meanwhile, puts his hands on his hips and looks at the turf.

It’s a crushing feeling for many quarterbacks across the country on their school’s Pro Day—the moment when they’ve realized that there might not be a spot for them on an NFL team. Although the field of competition is larger for players at other positions, so too are the opportunities for them to land on a pro roster. Save for kicker, at no position is it more challenging to find an available spot than QB—NFL teams often carry two, at most three. And unlike at other positions, where teams can stack up a barn of good players (within their cap room) who can catch, run, or play defense, only 32 men can slot in to throw the ball for an NFL team. Those who get lucky, like the Green Bay Packers with Aaron Rodgers, may not be in the hunt for a difference-making quarterback for years.

If a quarterback shows some promise—not the Jameis Winston’s of the world, but someone like Baylor’s Bryce Petty—then he might be drafted with a late pick, destined for a couple of short years as a backup. For a good chunk of the remaining quarterbacks who don’t fall into either category, they’ll be forced to use their college degree for something else.

BC head coach Steve Addazio believes Murphy is not content with that fate. Addazio understands that Murphy leaves much to be desired in the passing game. But instead of blaming it on a lack of talent, Addazio feels it has to do with his lack of experience. After all, 2014 was the only full season of Murphy’s career. He spent much of his time at the University of Florida backing up Jeff Driskel.

Regardless of his playing time, Murphy’s arm gives scouts reason to pause before seriously considering him as a quarterback. Murphy rarely made the most of the starts he had, especially in the aerial attack. In BC’s losses, when the Eagles’ 15th-ranked rushing attack couldn’t get going, Murphy had trouble adjusting. Look at the Louisville game: BC’s ground anemia forced Murphy to pass a lot in the second half, resulting in three 4th-quarter interceptions that put the game squarely out of reach.

When the Eagles won, it was often because of Murphy’s excellent running ability. The leader of the ground game rushed for 1,184 yards and 11 touchdowns. Addazio praised his versatility, calling him an “elite athlete.”

His unique skillset begs the question: could Murphy make it in the NFL playing at a different position?

“He’s ready to play quarterback, but I think he’s the kind of guy who’s willing to do anything,” Addazio said. “He’ll do whatever it takes, no doubt.”

Murphy admitted he had several teams approach him about making a switch to a position he never played before. “If it’s the only opportunity, I’d be willing to do something,” Murphy said. “I’d like to stay on the offensive side of the ball. I feel like I’m an offensive guy, but, you know, I’m definitely hoping to do whatever is going to help me at the next level.”

It’s not as radical of a move as it might seem. Yes, it’s rare that a player makes a position switch after playing his full college career behind center. The few that make this switch, however, see a lot of success in the NFL once they did. One in particular, former Indiana quarterback Antwaan Randle-El, found a spot in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ starting lineup as a wideout. Former Steeler coach Bill Cowher drew up the signature play of Super Bowl XL by taking advantage of Randle-El’s throwing ability—his 43-yard double-reverse touchdown pass to Hines Ward sealed Pittsburgh’s 21-10 victory.

The only team Murphy mentioned by name as having a heavy interest in him happened to be the Steelers.

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Scouts criticized Denard Robinson, former quarterback for the University of Michigan, for never blossoming as a passing threat. Yet like Murphy, his athleticism was unquestionable. The Jacksonville Jaguars took a flier on him in the fifth round as a running back, believing in his excellent ground numbers (Robinson rushed for 4,144 yards as a starting quarterback for the Wolverines). So far, the experiment has worked for the Jags, as Robinson put up a respectable 582 yards in 135 attempts for Jacksonville. Given their similar background, Jacksonville’s strategy with Robinson could work for teams interested in Murphy as well.

Following the Pinstripe Bowl, Murphy revealed his plan if he doesn’t receive good news come draft day. Murphy envisions himself standing on the sidelines in Chestnut Hill 20 years down the road, leading the next generation of dudes to potential gridiron glory. Addazio praised his ex-quarterback’s maturity both on and off the field, seeing his potential coaching career as a legitimate possibility.

There’s a good chance Murphy never throws a ball for an NFL team. Attempting a transition to a new position doesn’t bring any guarantees of success. But even with the odds stacked against him, it doesn’t seem like the football world has seen the last of Murph.

Featured Image by Drew Hoo / Heights Editor

March 19, 2015

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