It’s been a quick three years at UConn already for Kevin Murphy, now a redshirt junior, who described himself as a ‘junkyard dog’ upon committing to the Huskies back in 2015. It’s that mentality that has allowed him to step into an open competition along the defensive line throughout camp, with a fairly large group of unknown and untested, yet talented players, who haven’t seen time on gameday at the college level.
As camp has progressed, Murphy has found himself starting on the interior of the line more often than not, alonside a mix of freshmen like Lwal Uguak (end), Travis Jones (end/tackle), Jonathan Pace (end) and several others including Caleb Thomas (tackle), Carlton Steer (end), James Atkins (end) and AJ Garson (end). All have seen time with the first team this week, as the staff proceeds with evaluations before solidifying the first official depth chart of the season.
“All the young guys are getting reps,” Murphy confirmed. “We love the competition at every spot. At the end of the day, it’s going to make our team better, more suited to go out and compete, so whoever is ready to go and ready to play has an opportunity, so that’s exciting.”
Entering the offseason, it was expected that redshirt freshman Caleb Thomas was going to crack the starting lineup in the middle of the line and see the majority of the reps, but Murphy continued to work. That effort has gotten him back to the top of the unofficial depth chart, at least through three weeks of training camp.
“I try and live by something my dad taught me,” he said on his approach during the summer. “He always told me to stack the days. If you can get a little bit better every day and keep putting the days together, you’ll make progress. Over three-to-four months, you’ll make major strides in the right direction. I just tried to take care of the little things to get better every day.”
Along the way, he pulled others with him, cementing himself as a leader among the unit, something head coach Randy Edsall recognized, awarding him with a spot on the leadership council. It’s only improved the group as a whole, both on the field and from a work ethic perspective. It’s also allowed Murphy’s true characteristics to come to the forefront.
“Everyone did a good job in the offseason of taking accountability for the little things,” he said. “On defense, we all worked together, especially in the film room. We got the guys together at least two times per week to go over film and the little details, including techniques.”
Listening to Edsall, it’s those little things that that will ultimately get this program back to winning ways, the attention to detail and mastering of those techniques. Reviewing film is one thing, but taking those pieces and bringing them to the field is what will ultimately lead an uptick in the win column.
Murphy mentioned accountability and he confirmed that mindset has transitioned as training camp has progressed.
“It’s great when you see not just a couple of people holding each other accountable,” he said. “When you see it’s a large group of the team and everyone is trying to hold each other accountable, that’s when you really know you have something going. That’s something that we are seeing out here on the field and it’s going to carry into the season. It’s definitely making us really excited as a team.”
The arrival of four true freshmen, who Edsall lauded as the most talented group UConn has seen enter the program at the position, should make fans excited. Murphy has ensured they’ve been welcomed during their transition to college.
“I think that’s another great thing we’ve done this year more so than the past,” he said. “We got the young guys to feel right away that they were part of the family. They are going to be so crucial this year, so getting them developed early was important. In order to bring this program back to the greatness that it is, getting those young guys ready as soon as possible is key. It has been a smooth transition for them.”
With UCF looming in just twelve (12) days, training camp is coming to a close and game-week preparations are less than a week away. There’s certainly an excitement among the team, knowing the opportunity that’s at hand, a chance to put full attention of the college football world on Storrs.
“They are a great program,” Murphy said. “Last year they made some noise nationally and did a great job as advocates for our conference. Going out there and beating the big dogs, they showed that the AAC has great talent in it and that we can go compete with anyone. Having them come up here to The Rent, it’s a great stage, under the lights early in the season, one of the first games of the year for college football, so it’s going to be a great atmosphere. We can’t wait to see how the fans turn out for us and just hope that we can go out there, put on a great show and do well.”
MATT SCHONVISKY / SITE CREATOR