Chaz Murphy is more U-Haul truck than Ferrari sports car these days.
"Once I learn the plays and get the full-blown enthusiasm going, then I can go 100 mph," Murphy, Kansas University's 6-foot-4, 252-pound outside linebacker from Garden City Community College, said. "Right now, I'm about 85, 90 mph."
Even with the governor limiting his speed, Murphy has made an impression this spring.
"A guy I've been most pleased with is Chaz Murphy," KU coach Terry Allen said after the defense dominated a 109-play scrimmage on Saturday on the grass practice fields. "He's going to help us. He's a good player. " He's very athletic and he's very strong."
Thanks in part to Murphy, the defense had its way with the offense Saturday. Kansas' offense scored just one touchdown -- when Eric Patterson slipped behind the secondary and hauled in a long Zac Wegner pass for an untouched score -- and one field goal.
"I feel we're going to be a good defense," said Murphy, a native of Galveston, Texas, who earned second-team All-Jayhawk Junior College Conference honors last season at GCCC. "The linebackers coach, coach (Mark) Farley, said a couple of last year's linebackers couldn't have made some of the plays we made today. That's a pretty nice compliment."
All of last year's starting linebackers have graduated, leaving all four positions among the most hotly contested this spring. Murphy, sophomore Algie Atkinson, and juniors Tim Bowers and Victor Bullock are fighting for the outside jobs. Junior Dariss Lomax seems to have locked an inside spot, along with sophomore Andrew LeClair, but they're being pushed by sophomore Marcus Rogers and juco transfer Scott Rogers.
"There's a lot of good competition there," Murphy said. "That makes us all better. The guys who were here last year have a better understanding of the plays, but the new guys are catching up."
So is Matt Jordan at a different position. Jordan, a 5-10, 185-pound red-shirt freshman from Junction City, was a high school running back and part-time safety. Though he spent most of his red-shirt year at running back, this spring he has moved to cornerback, and on Saturday, at least, he was running with the first team.
"They just wanted to see how I look out there," said Jordan, who made the move on Monday. "They wanted to get me some reps, just throw me in the fire."
He didn't get burned.
"He is and will compete to be a starting cornerback," Allen said. "We experimented with this in the preseason. He had some very legitimate defensive back skills, but we kept him at running back in the fall, even though he red-shirted. But with the success we had in recruiting at that position, we thought we could afford to move him over there."
It has been quite a change for Jordan, who claims to fall back on offensive tendencies from time to time.
"It's tough, but whatever I can do to get on the field is best," he said. "Defensively, I'm still learning. I'm used to being on offense. I've got a lot of work to do."
Allen said he was pleased with Saturday's scrimmage, despite the lone TD. He singled out offensive linemen John Oddonetto and Justin Hartwig, wide receivers Anton Paige and Byron Gasaway, QB Zac Wegner and defenders Jordan, Murphy and Atkinson.
"I thought things went pretty well," Allen said. "Of the 109 plays, we had 11 penalties. That's one every 10 snaps, and that's too many, but in a scrimmage situation, that's not too bad. We had two fumbles, a quarterback-center conversion and a fumble by a running back. Those are things we're going to highlight. But for the first six or seven practices, the guys have really done a good job."
The only injury Saturday was believed not to be serious. Linebacker Mitchell Scott aggravated a cartilage tear in his right knee.
Spring drills will resume Monday and conclude with the annual spring game at 1 p.m. on April 24.
-- Andrew Hartsock's phone number is 832-7216. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.