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The Tyler Murphy Mantra

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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Tyler Murphy's mindset, one of resiliency and resolve, has become the rallying point for a football team dealt a full hand of early season adversity.

We’re very proud of him, a guy that’s worked through the process of becoming a starter here at Florida, a guy that never complained and did not handle things the wrong way. He always handled things perfectly.
~Will Muschamp

The nation is learning about Florida quarterback Tyler Murphy; who he is, what, exactly, he is all about. A redshirt junior who attempted his first college pass last Saturday, Murphy's most previous game experience came against South Carolina a season ago -- at wide receiver. Since joining the Gators in 2010, much of Murphy's mileage has come on the scout team. When starting signal caller Jeff Driskel grabbed at his lower right leg in the first quarter of Florida's game against Tennessee, however, head football Will Muschamp reached for Murphy.

A two-star prospect out of Wethersfield, Connecticut, Murphy chose UF over reported offers from Fordham, Syracuse and Temple, who he originally verballed to. Many of the top programs in the country decided to pass on the dual-threat star. After reviewing his film, a highlight tape sent to Gainesville by Murphy, two-time national champion Urban Meyer and offensive coordinator Steve Addazio did not.  

Though regulated down the depth chart, a lack of playing time did not impact Murphy's participation or preparation. He dedicated himself to his responsibilities, embracing each of them as an opportunity to get better. Despite being the only New England-native on the roster, Murphy quickly became one of the more popular and respected players on the team. He was even featured in a pre-Sugar Bowl piece on ESPN.com for being an effective, but more importantly a willing, scout team contributor. That reputation is helping him now.

"He is a veteran, more mature type guy. He sometimes seems like he is 25 or 30, not 21 or 22," explained Scott Carter of GatorZone.com, Florida's official athletics website, on the Southern Pigskin Radio Network. "Though he has never had a chance to play, he is a program guy and knows the system. His teammates and coaches always have great things to say about him."

Murphy's wait was a long one; his introduction was dramatically more abrupt. With the Gators trailing, he was inserted into the lineup in a nationally-televised rivalry game with championship implications. Murphy finished the afternoon 8-of-14 passing for 134 yards, one touchdown and zero interceptions, adding 84 yards on the ground and a rushing score. Florida's 31-17 triumph over Tennessee proved to be the most important statistic.   

"Player of the game was Tyler Murphy. I can’t compliment him enough about how he came in, responded and handled the situation," Muschamp nodded in the post-game press conference. "We had a lot of confidence in him. He has really taken a step forward. He’s improved tremendously as a passer, taking the ball to the right spots. He’s always been a very intelligent guy, a really good athlete. We will not change much of who we are offensively."

The fourth-year junior is now preparing for the first start of his college career, a conference road game at Kentucky. Though the Wildcats are off to a slow start under first-year head coach Mark Stoops, Kentucky recently held Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to his lowest passing yardage total since September of last year. The Wildcats currently rank third in the SEC in pass defense and fourth in sacks. Kentucky ranks sixth nationally in third down defense, holding opponents to just 23% on conversion attempts. 

For most quarterbacks, the biggest challenge of a road debut might simply be the circumstances. For Murphy, though, that likely won't be a problem.

“Certainly being the starter is different," Muschamp acknowledged. "Knowing Tyler, he won’t approach it any differently from the standpoint of being the starter. He may have a couple more butterflies here and there as far as starting the game, but other than that, he’s a pretty calm, cool, collected guy as you saw on Saturday. He’ll handle it like a champion.”

An injury to a starting quarterback can be debilitating for many teams. The Gators, top to bottom, believe all of their goals are still intact. While inexperienced in terms of live game repetitions, Murphy is far from raw. He has been acting as if his entire career. He showed that poise in a admirable, out-of-the-bullpen performance against Tennessee. As the Florida players, many of whom were heralded four and five star recruits, now follow Murphy's lead, his tone is resonating throughout.

"We’re very proud of him, a guy that’s worked through the process of becoming a starter here at the University of Florida, a guy that never complained and did not handle things the wrong way. He always handled things perfectly," Muschamp added.      

Murphy's mindset, one of resiliency and resolve, has become the rallying point for a football team dealt a full hand of early season adversity. Still concerned for and appreciative of Driskel, who is having surgery this week, the Gators are placing their trust in a quarterback some suggested should have left town long ago. Murphy refused, showing a powerful commitment to his program, his school and his role. As Florida readies to move forward, now, it's his team.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Matt Osborne and Kevin Thomas on the Southern Pigskin Radio Network and is the sports director for multiple ESPN Radio affiliates based throughout southeast Georgia. @BJBennettSports