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Archive for Saturday, April 12, 2008

Former Firebird Murphy switches to defense

April 12, 2008

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Kansas University freshman Ryan Murphy spent his red-shirt season learning the ropes of wide receiver, even getting pegged scout team player of the week at one point during the 2007 season.

But the KU football coaching staff watched Murphy and sensed more potential inside of him. They think they tapped it this spring by moving the 5-foot-10, 175-pounder to cornerback.

"He looks like a natural on the defensive side," KU coach Mark Mangino said. "It's where he looks the most comfortable in our program. We did make that move, and it's worked out pretty well."

Murphy has played on defense for all 14 of KU's spring practices to date, and he'll be playing cornerback Monday when the Jayhawks have their annual spring game at Memorial Stadium.

It's nothing new to Murphy. The Free State High product played cornerback (and quarterback) in high school for the Firebirds, who went to the state semifinals Murphy's senior season.

Murphy originally was pegged as a slot receiver when he enrolled at KU. Instead, he'll go into the 2008 season battling for a cornerback spot alongside sophomore Chris Harris, senior Kendrick Harper, freshman Isiah Barfield and others.

"He's learning, and he's certainly a guy who's a good student and wants to get better," Mangino said. "We think in the long run, that's going to be a really good position for him. He'll help us tremendously."

As for inside receiver? Kansas does have the valuable Dexton Fields returning for his senior season, after he caught 63 balls for 834 yards and six touchdowns in 2007. Freshman Rell Lewis, a speedy 5-10, 200-pounder out of Muskogee, Okla., is another possibility.

"We wouldn't move somebody out of the receiver position unless we thought we were strong enough there," Mangino said. "Obviously, we feel like we're strong enough, and we have good enough numbers there.

"The time is right to move (Murphy) to defense. He's a better fit there, and it would be a disservice to him to leave him on offense at this point in time."

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