Wednesday, 14 August 2013

40 Players in 40 Days: Number 16 Trent Murphy

 (photo cred: Grant Shorin -
I decided to take a day off from the countdown yesterday in order to formulate the Pac-12 All-Name team but I'm pick with another installment of the countdown today. I'll play a little catch up on Friday and release two names to get back up to date but for now, the 16th best player in the Pac-12 for 2013 is Stanford Senior Defensive End/Outside Linebacker Trent Murphy. I bet you can guess what happens next...that's right it's an increasingly long recap of the previous players on the list.

40. WR Chris Harper, Cal
39. OLB/S Dion Bailey, USC
38. S Alden Darby, Arizona State
37. OT Tyler Johnstone, Oregon
36. DE Chidera Uzo-Diribe, Colorado
35. S Deon Bucannon, Washington State
34. LB Shaq Thompson, Washington
33. DE Taylor Hart, Oregon
32. DT DeAndre Coleman, Cal
31. CB Terrance Mitchell, Oregon
30. C Hroniss Grassu, Oregon
29. DL Henry Anderson, Stanford
28. QB Kevin Hogan, Stanford
27. LB Carl Bradford, Arizona State
26. RB Storm Woods, Oregon State
25. QB Taylor Kelly, Arizona State
24. DL Cassius Marsh, UCLA
23. S Ed Reynolds, Stanford
22. OT Jeremiah Poutasi, Utah
21. TE Colt Lyerla, Oregon
20. RB Bishop Sankey, Washington
19. DT Leonard Williams, USC 
18. WR Brandin Cooks, Oregon State 
17. OL Xavier Su'a-Filo, UCLA
Murphy had a solid sophomore season in 2011 when he came from off the radar and tallied 10 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks. He then built on those honors last season by finishing fifth in the conference in sacks with 10 and sixth in tackles for loss with 18. Those numbers were enough to make him a first-team All-Pac-12 selection but his honors were because of more than just numbers.

Murphy's best trait is his versatility. He essentially played eight different positions for the Cardinal last season. Watch this film of Murphy against Washington and try to keep track of where Murphy lines up. Stanford uses him as a stand up edge rusher (conventional 3-4 OLB), a "five technique" lined up directly over the tackle (3-4 DE), a "three technique" lined up between the tackle and the guard, attempting to shoot the gap (normally reserved for a 4-3 DT), and outside the offensive tackle with a hand on the ground in a "wide 9" technique ( 4-3 DE). He did all four of those roles on both sides of the formation, meaning he played eight different spots on the field during this game, each with its own unique rules and responsibilities.

But playing eight different positions doesn't mean much if you aren't a very good player. Good thing for Murphy is that he is a difference maker who provides an edge to Stanford's defense that they can't get elsewhere. Murphy is a very physical player with a mean streak. He takes on contact whenever he can get it and provides a good push into the pocket to disrupt plays. He has very good quickness, footwork, and he uses his hands well which he can use to quickly get around blockers off the initial rush which you can see a few times in the video above. He also has a great understanding of where he needs to be on the field and he maintains his discipline and responsibilities very well. That discipline allowed him to make his best highlight of the season.

On his pick-six against Washington, he sees a cut block coming from the right tackle and avoids it. After seeing the cut block, he picks up the running back Bishop Sankey leaking out to the left and the QB Keith Price turning his body to throw that direction. Murphy reads that the play is a designed swing pass for Sankey so he stops in the passing lane and blocks Price's angle to complete the pass. Price likely didn't see Murphy standing in the passing lane as he throws it right to him and Murphy makes a great play to tip the ball up in the air, intercept it, and take it to the end zone for his first career touchdown. You can talk all you want about being a dominant and athletic terror coming off the edge but I'd rather have a guy like Trent Murphy who can quickly dissect a play and react appropriately. 

Murphy also rises to the occasion when his team needs to as he had his three best performances of the season against USC, Notre Dame, and Oregon, the three defining games on Stanford's schedule. Murphy did fade a little bit down the stretch last season as he tallied just eight total tackles in Stanford's final three games but I don't see that as a harbinger of future failure.

Murphy is not a dynamic pass rusher destined for greatness and you won't see him too often on Sportscenter but I don't think Murphy would have it any other way. Simply put Trent Murphy is one of the best, scheme diverse players in college football. His athleticism won't wow you and that will likely keep him out of the first round in next April's NFL draft. However his size, relentless motor, versatility, physicality, and football IQ should get him into the mid-second round range. Very few players have the type of versatility that Murphy can add to a front seven and that combined with his skills, smarts, and attitude will make him a very successful player for years to come.

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