Florida QB Tyler Murphy: More than a manager?

Associated Press photo by JOHN RAOUX -- Florida quarterback Tyler Murphy high-fives fans after last week's 30-10 win over Arkansas at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Murphy has completed 72 percent of his passes for 530 yards, five touchdowns and one interception.
Associated Press photo by JOHN RAOUX -- Florida quarterback Tyler Murphy high-fives fans after last week's 30-10 win over Arkansas at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Murphy has completed 72 percent of his passes for 530 yards, five touchdowns and one interception.

After three-plus years of watching and waiting, Florida quarterback Tyler Murphy is making the most of his first chance to start

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Call Florida quarterback Tyler Murphy a game manager.

The label doesn’t bother him. The fourth-year junior considers the term a compliment.

“No, I don’t take any offense to it,” Murphy said. “Since I’ve been here, Alabama has been one of the top teams. Watching them, I try to copycat AJ McCarron a little bit. He does a great job managing the game and taking what the defense gives him. (It’s) his third year being the starter. He’s making a lot of plays and put the team on his back a few times. It all starts with being a game manager.”

Florida coach Will Muschamp agrees. Following the No. 17-ranked Gators’ 30-10 win against the Arkansas Razorbacks last Saturday, Muschamp said the “game manager” moniker should be a point of pride for Murphy.

“That’s the greatest compliment you can give a quarterback,” Muschamp said. “Tom Brady is a great game manager. It’s about converting third downs, completing passes, getting your offense in and out of the right runs, the right passes, protections, taking the ball to the right spots, taking care of the football, scoring points, moving your team, your team having confidence in you.

“That’s one of the greatest compliments you can have as a quarterback, is a ‘game manager’ — a guy that does what he’s supposed to do.”

In three games this season, Murphy has accomplished all those the duties Muschamp listed and more.

Since taking over for the injured Jeff Driskel (fractured right fibula) in the first quarter of Florida’s 31-17 win at Tennessee on Sept. 21, Murphy’s production has steadily increased. Against the Razorbacks, Murphy tallied a career-high 240 passing yards and a 209.4 passer rating — the best by a Gator since Tim Tebow.

“He’s a dang good player,” South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said. “His throwing motion is beautiful. He throws a nice, catchable ball. He can move around in the pocket. You’d never think the young man hadn’t played but two, three games.”

With the Florida offense humming better than it has in years under Murphy’s direction, the Wethersfield, Conn., native might be redefining the term “game manager.”

That’s much better than what Murphy could have hoped for as a two-star recruit in the Class of 2010.

Comparisons to Brady and McCarron might have seemed laughable then.

Murphy received only two FBS scholarship offers to play quarterback. Other FBS schools offered him spots as a safety.

“I wasn’t happy about it,” Murphy said. “I played quarterback all my life. I wanted to continue playing quarterback. It was just something I thought I was good enough to do at the next level, so I didn’t want to sell myself short.”

Former Temple Owls coach Al Golden saw something special in Murphy and offered him a scholarship to play quarterback. Murphy committed quickly.

“We thought we were getting a steal,” said Golden, now the coach at Miami.

Fortunately for the Gators, former Florida offensive coordinator Steve Addazio, a Connecticut native, got a look at Murphy on film.

Addazio — who earned his first head coaching job with Temple and now holds the same position for Boston College — invited Murphy to Gainesville for a visit.

Golden recognized the magnitude of Florida’s interest in Murphy. Not only did he agree to let Murphy take the visit, he encouraged the quarterback.

“It was a tremendous opportunity for him,” Golden said. “I was happy for him at the time.”

Murphy flipped to Florida and got to work. Although several others got chances to play quarterback before he did, Murphy said he was not discouraged. He did not complain or try to transfer. He simply waited his turn.

“It was always in the back of my mind that I might never play,” Murphy said. “I just kept working hard and just keep fighting.”

Given the opportunity, he seized it and took advantage.

Saturday’s game in Tiger Stadium provides Murphy another chance. He can help preserve Florida’s Southeastern Conference and national championship hopes (the Gators are 4-1 overall, 3-0 in SEC play), and he can make the most of his time as a new starter.

“I definitely feel like they’re getting a little more comfortable with me being back there,” Murphy said. “That’s something that you have to earn. Honestly, I’m just going to keep working hard and keep striving to get better.”