If you didn’t know who quarterback Tyler Murphy was, you certainly knew after Florida’s win over Tennessee Saturday. The redshirt junior had never thrown a pass in college until Saturday. His number was called when starting quarterback Jeff Driskel went down in the first quarter to a broken fibula.
Fans were a little restless when No. 3 took over under center. Who the heck is this kid? Do we know anything about him? Murphy put the uneasiness to rest as he put together a brilliant performance completing 57% of his passes for 134 yards and a touchdown, allowing Florida to beat Tennessee for a ninth straight year. Not to mention he rushed for 84 yards on ten carries. By the fourth quarter the student section broke out in “Ty-ler Mur-phy” chants. Florida fans didn’t know much about Murphy, but they liked what they saw.
But there is someone who knew that Murphy was fully capable of playing like this all along. That person is Travis Meyer, Murphy’s private quarterback coach, who started coaching Murphy during winter of his junior year of high school. Meyer is the owner, operator, and head trainer of Five Star Quarterback Training based out of Rocky Hill, Connecticut, where he trains quarterbacks from all levels. Visit his website at: http://www.fivestarquarterbacks.com/
A few of his products include UPENN’s Billy Regone, who’s been one of the best quarterbacks in the Ivy League, along with Casey Cochran, a redshirt freshman at UCONN. His resume also includes Georgetown’s Kyle Nolan. Meyer’s personal experience playing quarterback position made him strive to coach QBs specifically. He is also a coach responsible for Jordan Reed’s recruitment to Florida.
“I had bad coaches in high school and I think it made me become a better coach and so when I started coaching I really studied quarterback. I kept studying and practicing it, and ended up with Jordan Reed at New London High School. I had a great coach that I coached under there in Jack Cochran, and he gave me a lot of time to really work on my coaching with Jordan. We’d spend a couple hours of practice, just me and Jordan just getting his mechanics right. Once I was done there after Jordan’s senior year, that’s when I started doing it privately and I’ve been doing it since,” said Meyer.
Murphy’s high school coaches John Campanello and Jeff Weber at Wethersfield High reached out to Coach Meyer to work with Murphy specifically after his junior year.
“I was an assistant there [at Wethersfield] for my first three years of coaching, so I knew the staff well. They brought me in and allowed to do whatever it took. Of course my stipulations are always if you’re going to let me coach him, let me teach him these things and you’ve got to let him do what I’m teaching, and not change anything,” said Meyer.
Meyer says that one of the first things he worked on with Murphy was his throwing mechanics, one of the initial things that Meyer works on with every player that he coaches.
“His were pretty good but he definitely had some work to do so we got the actual throwing mechanics down. I think one of the keys to his recruitment was throwing on the run. It’s one of the things that Urban Meyer told me and told him was that the ability to throw on the run was incredible, and you saw that in the game [Saturday],” said Meyer.
Coaches Steve Addazio, Florida’s offensive coordinator in 2009 and 2010, and Scott Loeffler, Florida’s quarterbacks coach at the time, were mainly responsible for reaching out to Meyer about Murphy. Meyer had a relationship with the coaches due to the recruitment of Reed. Early in the recruiting process, Addazio told Meyer that they couldn’t offer Murphy because there were a couple of other quarterbacks they were planning on offering. Murphy was committed to Temple when Addazio reached out to Meyer again later in the year.
“I got a call one night from Scott Loeffler saying ‘What was the name of that kid?’ I said ‘Tyler Murphy’ and he said ‘I’ll call you back tomorrow.’ and then I got a call back about an hour later saying ‘Okay, tell me all about this kid.’ Then Loefller flew up and met with all of us. And then Tyler went down and was offered within that month,” said Meyer.
One of the high school tapes of Murphy that Addazio looked at was put together by Meyer himself. See Murphy’s highlight tape here:
Fast forward three years and Murphy is now the starting quarterback for the 2013 Gator football team. Florida offensive coordinator Brent Pease’s pro-style offense is one that Meyer calls a “perfect fit” for Murphy’s skillset.
“If you look at his highlight tape from high school, he looks like a kid that’s a true dual threat, he’s going to be the runner and he can throw, but he’s really a runner. But the case with Tyler is that he’s a passer. He’s got a great arm. If you watch those highlights [from Saturday], even when he’s scrambling he’s almost always looking downfield to throw,” said Meyer.
We’ve seen the emergence of dual threat quarterbacks like Murphy—an evolution of the quarterback position if you will—throughout the game of football in the past five or six years. Most notably with Urban Meyer and Tim Tebow running the spread on the collegiate level, and it’s reached its way to the NFL with teams like Seattle and San Francisco who have true dual threat QBs and run pistol and read-option offenses. Meyer shared his sentiments on this new type of quarterback becoming more prevalent throughout football.
“It’s starting to change now. You see even Colin Kaepernick, who I wouldn’t have bet that he would be as good as he is—and he is. He can refine his mechanics, but he’s very good. As far as the challenges for me [as a coach], it’s hard to find a kid who’s a great athlete and the great passer because it takes a lot of work to work on your passing game and to work on your mechanics,” said Meyer.
Mechanics is something that Murphy still works on at Florida. In fact he’s gotten some funny looks at practice for stressing over them so much.
“He tells me that the other quarterbacks would always laugh at him the last two years because he’d throw a pass and then he’s checking his elbow, he’s going over how he stepped into the throw. It’s probably because of me because once I really get them under my wing they are acutely focused on those mechanics to make sure that they’re as perfect as they can be. It speaks to his character that he took to that and understood how important the mechanics were because a lot of kids won’t; no matter how much you stress it,” said Meyer.
Coach Will Muschamp has talked a lot this week about Murphy’s character, and how he’s very well-liked in the locker room. Meyer touched on Murphy as a person saying,
“He works smart—he’s not just working hard out there he understands everything that they’re asking him to do. And then when you talk about character. That kid is as good as it gets. He was always working with special needs kids, he always told me he wanted to be a teacher and I think that’s turned into he wants to be a coach,” said Meyer.
After Murphy’s performance on Saturday, Meyer said Murphy was reserved when he spoke with him on the phone, and even downgraded his own play—something Meyer said isn’t uncommon for the quarterback to do.
“I asked him ‘How do you think you played?’ and he said, ‘I’ve got things to work on, I made a couple mistakes I want to make sure I improve on those during the week.’ It wasn’t like ‘Yeah, can you believe how well I played?’ That’s not Tyler. He’s not going to do that,” said Meyer.
Meyer on the other hand, thought Murphy played a lot better than what he gave himself credit for. One of his biggest plays came on 3rd and 10 with 9:32 to go in the 3rd quarter. Murphy hits Quinton Dunbar perfectly on the right sideline, giving Dunbar just enough space to catch the ball in bounds. See the video of the play here.
“That pass on the right sideline was a perfect ball. I think that’s another thing that’s been missing at Florida. I don’t know if you could have done it better than that on that play. It’s very hard to place that ball like that,” said Meyer.
Here’s a great shot of just how perfectly the ball is placed. It’s high enough to evade cornerback Justin Coleman, but low enough for Dunbar to still catch it in bounds.
(Screenshot courtesy of Libgator on YouTube)
Murphy has a long road ahead of him. One that includes an SEC gauntlet featuring road trips to LSU, South Carolina, as well as getting Georgia in the first week of November in Jacksonville. Can Murphy handle it? One thing’s for sure, Coach Meyer has complete confidence in Murphy for 2013.
“I don’t want to be too overconfident almost in a superstitious way, because I don’t want to look back and it and go ‘my hopes were too high for him.’ It’s a tough schedule, it’s the SEC, and he’s got some tests ahead of him but I think he’ll be fine. He’ll have mistakes, he’ll have interceptions, maybe a fumble. Things are going to happen. But it’s how he manages an entire game, and I think he’ll be fine with that. You’re not going to see a meltdown by the kid,” said Meyer.
Murphy will get his first career start on the road Saturday night against Kentucky, who the Gators are looking to beat for a 27th straight time.
Morgan Moriarty is a third year Telecommunications major at the University of Florida, and covers college football and recruiting for Florida Sports Talk Radio. She is also on the University of Florida Women’s Club Water Polo Team. Follow her on Twitter here @Morgan_Moriarty