Trent Murphy has been overlooked more than a few times in his athletic career. As a high school senior, Murphy was largely a regional recruit. He was deemed a low three-star recruit and was ranked only No. 19 in the Arizona state rankings.
Last season, after recording six sacks and 10 tackles for loss, he still didn't receive nearly the preseason accolades or acclaim as some of his peers on the Stanford defense.
Yet ask opposing quarterbacks and offensive coordinators about Murphy's role on Stanford's 2012 defense, and they'll probably have plenty to say. Murphy had 10 sacks, 18.0 tackles for loss and a pick-six for good measure in the regular season, and was often Stanford's most disruptive pass rusher.
Murphy's position coach, Lance Anderson, said that Murphy's improvement is largely attributable to good healthy and a strong offseason.
"I think just the experience he got last year, the playing time he got last year, and then all the work he got in the bowl practices last year, spring ball, fall camp leading up to this season has just allowed him to play with much more consistency, much more confidence," Anderson said. "He's stronger , he's faster than what he was before, and he's been healthy. He's really showed us what he can do in terms of pass rush, playing in space, and he's a big long athlete that can run real well and is very athletic."
Murphy's success has also undoubtedly drew attention from NFL scouts. The 6-foot-6, 261-pound Arizona native has another year of college eligibility, but would also likely be drafted should he decide to pursue a professional career this year.
Cardinal Sports Report caught up with Murphy after a recent Stanford Rose Bowl practice to discuss his fine 2012 season, as well as the looming draft decision.
Cardinal Sports Report: This year you've been, well, dominant a lot of the time. What has been the key for you to take that next step from last season?
Trent Murphy: Probably the biggest thing is just having another year to develop, (get) older, more mature, kind of figure things out. I had another offseason to get better under my belt. I was hurt the first couple of years. It was on and off. So I didn't have offseasons, didn't have that time with everybody. The other thing is the guys I play with kind of make it all happen. A lot of times running stunts or what have you with other guys. They do their job well so it lets me make the plays. It goes both ways, but those are kind of the two biggest things.
CSR: As a defense as a whole, you guys have had a good defense in years past, but this year it's been a different attitude, the party in the backfield mantra, and just a different level of production. What is the difference as a unit?
TM: Probably the biggest thing is that we've just been trying to build it up. We've been trying to build a tradition of good defense. The first year we talked about it, kind of like "maybe, maybe". The next year it was kind of like" alright, yeah". This year it was kind of that confidence that we all have. We all know what we can do it, we all know what everyone is capable of. We just go out there with confidence and know that we're going to stop them, get a three-and-out.
CSR: What is the most memorable or brightest moment for you personally of 2012?
TM: There's a couple big plays here and there that were pretty exciting for me. Probably our big sack game, we got all those sacks, I got to hit a couple of times. That was pretty sweet. Probably the USC game, and then going up to Oregon, b eating them in their place was pretty sweet.
CSR: Can you talk about the outside linebackers, to play with Chase Thomas and Alex Debniak and even Kevin Anderson, the level at which your position group was able to play all season?
TM: Chase definitely sets the tone there. He plays at a high level. He's an impressive player to watch and has a lot of really impressive moves. A lot of us kind of learn from him, just watching, and copy him, or copy some of my moves, or copy some of Debs' moves. Everybody brings something to the table that we can all learn from. It's scary, because those four guys can probably start anywhere in the country, and you have them behind each other always battling or a spot. That's probably the biggest thing -- the competition within the room and how we all kind of bring something to the table and go from there.
CSR: Blake Lueders has been injured, but what have you seen from him coming back from the shoulder injuries
TM: Blake is definitely a strong athlete. I'm looking forward to seeing what he's going to do next year because he'll probably be coming back. I know he's been getting strong. He's been in the weight room, had an opportunity to do that this year. He'll definitely be ready to go.
CSR: You personally have a pretty significant decision to make between going to the next level or staying here another year. What are the factors that you'll consider when making that choice?
TM: There's a lot of factors. School is probably always the biggest one. Maybe look to start a co-term or a double major, something like that, see where I can go with that. Submit my papers just to see what they (the NFL advisory board) say and make a decision there. Obviously I'll talk to the coaches and my parents, but for me, I still have a ton to improve on. Even this year I kicked myself for something I did every game across the board. So there's a ton to improve on, so I definitely have that.
CSR: Is there any sense of when that decision will be made?
TM: Yeah, probably after the game will be the time to make the decision I think for probably everybody. We've always been kind of focused on what's most important and the task at hand and right now it's winning the Rose Bowl. We'll let individuals figure out that stuff after the game.