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October 26, 2012

A force on the edge

Just how far has Trent Murphy come since the start of the season?

Consider this: On July 9, the Maxwell Football club released its watch list for the Bednarik Award, given to the best defensive player in college football. Sixty five names found their way onto the list, including a pair of Stanford linebackers -- Chase Thomas and Shayne Skov.

No surprise there.

Skov had been the known commodity nationally since the Orange Bowl beat down of Virginia Tech in 2011, if not earlier, and Thomas was the unquestioned leader of last year's Stanford defense. It's likely both could be on NFL rosters right now if they wanted to be.

Murphy? Well, the Maxwell Club had its eye on him too. He didn't land on the Bednarik watch list, but he was one of 51 included, along with Thomas and Skov, on the Butkus Award watch list, which the Maxwell Club gives to the nation's best linebacker.

In short, the committee believed - justifiably -- he was the third-best linebacker on Stanford's roster.

Not anymore.

It was Murphy, not Thomas or Skov, who the committee named a semifinalist for the Butkus Award on Monday.

"It's kind of encouraging to have some positive feedback from the role you put in," Murphy said. "But really all I do is do what the coaches ask me to do within the scheme of the defense and do my job."

If it was as simple as he makes it sound, there'd be trophies for everyone. It's not and there aren't.

Murphy's ascension from good to great hasn't taken the Stanford coaching staff by surprise. Throughout the spring, coach David Shaw would mention two players day after day: Thomas and Murphy.

Shaw raved about the duo's ability to stay unblocked. No one blocked them in the spring, and, so far, opposing offenses are having trouble blocking them in the fall.

Murphy ranks fourth on the team in tackles (35) behind Thomas, safety Jordan Richards and Skov, but leads the team in sacks (4.5), is tied with Thomas with nine tackles for loss and returned an interception 40 yards for a touchdown.

For Murphy, life is easy when you're surrounded by so much talent.

"You have Chase and Shayne and Ben (Gardner) and Henry (Anderson), then Ed (Reynolds) picking off balls back there," Murphy said. "It makes your job that much easier, it takes the pressure off of you and prevents teams from game planning for just one guy."

When news came down that it was Murphy up for the award, it was both rewarding and somewhat surprising for Shaw.

"I think its great because I think you can put our game film on and say there's about five guys on that game film that could be up for different awards," he said. "I think Henry Anderson and Ben Gardner don't get the fanfare, but they're playing as well as anybody in our conference.

"I think both Chase and Murph are playing as well on the edge as well as anybody in our conference in particular and possibly nationally."

The surprise?

"I just think it's interesting that Chase isn't on that also because I think Chase is playing as well as anyone in the country," Shaw said.

Andrew Luck proved winning a coveted award isn't everything, but then again, tangible evidence for a job well done never hurt anybody.

Follow @KyleBonagura on Twitter


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