Playing on a defense bereft of playmakers, Ryan Murphy, high school star/college role player, was showing signs of developing into a playmaker for Kansas University in 2009.
He led the team with two interceptions. Then the Jayhawks went to Lubbock to play Texas Tech. Murphy got torched for a touchdown. The receiver was closer to New Mexico than he was to Murphy.
“Just misread the play,” Murphy said, looking back on his career lowlight. “It was a little slant-and-go, and I kind of bit a little bit on the slant, he got past me, and you know how it goes. Six points. I just had kind of a little rough period, didn’t get on the field as much as I wanted to after that. I’m still working on trying to get back out there, trying to play a lot more this year.”
Listed at 6-foot (a stretch) and 185 pounds, Murphy will be a fourth-year junior when Kansas opens its football season Sept. 4 against North Dakota State in Memorial Stadium.
Murphy was all about big plays on both sides of the ball for Free State High, where he played quarterback and cornerback and was rated by Rivals.com as a four-star prospect. Big hits triggered his adrenaline as much as break-away runs for touchdowns. As a cornerback, if Murphy gambled and guessed wrong, he had the speed to recover.
Aggressiveness is a good quality in a football player, but too much of it can lead to mistakes.
Asked recently how Murphy had been progressing in spring practice, new Kansas football coach Turner Gill said, “He’s done some improving on a day or two. There have been some other guys who have been overall more consistent.”
Plenty of time left to make a more favorable impression. If Murphy never earns regular playing time, it won’t be for lack of effort or confidence. Or, to hear Murphy tell it, lack of speed.
“I feel I’m a lot faster than I was in high school,” Murphy said. “We’re constantly lifting weights, trying to get our legs stronger, and we’re always doing speed work.”
More than speed and confidence determine the success of a cornerback, but it’s impossible to be a good one without having an abundance of both qualities. Asked how his speed compares to that of teammates, Murphy said, “I think I’m right up there with everybody. I feel like I’m just as fast as everybody, if not faster.”
The fastest guy on the team?
“I’ll put my name up there,” he said with a smile.
Some players faced tough decisions when Gill gave them the option of choosing what position they wanted to play at the opening of spring football. Murphy, who worked out with receivers during his red-shirt season, was not among them.
“Corner’s a better fit for me,” he said. “I played it in high school, and I feel a lot more comfortable there.”
While the KU baseball roster has five Free State graduates (Travis Blankenship, Jordan Dreiling, Scott Heitshusen, Brett Lisher and Robby Price) and one from Lawrence High (Brian Heere), the school’s football roster lists just two players from Lawrence. A 6-foot-2, 240-pound sophomore, walk-on Tyler Hunt from LHS is competing with Steven Foster at fullback.