Myles Murphy’s freshman year at Clemson has been full of surprises so far, and even he admittedly did not think coming into the season that he would make the type of instant impact that he has in his first year with the Tigers.
After enrolling in January, it took some time for the former five-star prospect to become accustomed to the speed of the college game and get adjusted to facing Clemson’s offensive line in spring practice.
But Murphy has clearly started to figure things out, as through eight games this season, the ultra-talented defensive end ranks third on the team with 36 total tackles, including a team-best nine tackles for loss and a team-high 3.5 sacks. The native of Marietta, Ga., is also tied for second on the team with six quarterback pressures.
“Most definitely exceeded my expectations from high school,” Murphy said on Tuesday, reflecting on his freshman season to this point. “It’s been a very eye-opening experience. When I first came in, going against our O-line every day, it was very eye-opening and surprising at the speed of how their blocking scheme was and how fast they were able to cover up gaps and what not and how good the pass-blocking was.
“So, it took me about a month to get used to that, catch up to their speed. Since then, I was kept up to speed and I kind of slowed everything down to how I was in high school. Now, I’m trying to get to where I can just do what I do, knowing my key and responsibility in the play or the blitz that we’re running and just keep it as simple as possible.”
In his last two seasons at Hillgrove High School in Powder Springs, Ga., Murphy amassed 108 total tackles, including 35 for loss and 17.5 sacks. He was considered the No. 1 strong-side defensive end in the 2020 recruiting class by both Rivals and 247Sports coming out of high school, while he was ranked as a top-15 national prospect regardless of position by all the major recruiting services.
The 6-foot-5, 275-pounder arrived on campus at Clemson ready to play from a physical standpoint, so the biggest challenge for him in the transition from high school to college was learning the playbook and trying to understand defensive coordinator Brent Venables’ complex scheme.
It wasn’t until a couple of weeks ago, according to Murphy, when things really started to click for him mentally.
“I would most definitely say it’s been more mental than physical by far because Coach V has a big, huge playbook and so many blitzes, coverages and what not,” Murphy said. “Now, I’m very comfortable with the playbook, but two weeks before this, I was struggling because I also have school, football and life off the field and away from school. So, it was a lot mentally, but it’s kind of just getting into the grind of things, and now I’m catching up on everything and now it’s all stacking up well together.”
Murphy has played in all eight of Clemson’s games this season as a true freshman, starting four of them and logging at least 15 snaps in every contest and more than 30 in four of those.
In the fourth-ranked Tigers’ most recent game at then-No. 4 Notre Dame on Nov. 7, the former U.S. Army All-American recorded a career-high 60 snaps while registering five tackles, including one for loss, in the 47-40 double-overtime loss.
If Murphy had been told before the season that he would be on the field for 60 snaps in the big-time matchup against the Fighting Irish, he likely wouldn’t have believed it.
“Honestly, I probably would have been surprised at first and probably would have started running just to get conditioned for it, which thankfully I was conditioned for it because we’ve been working this whole time,” Murphy said. “So, I was well conditioned for it, and getting in the playbook, I was good on that. But if you would have told me that before I was in college, I would have been astonished.”
The opportunity to square off against a stout Notre Dame offensive line widely considered one of the top units in the country was big for Murphy, who can learn from the experience and use it to grow as a player moving forward in his freshman season and beyond.
“It was a good experience, honestly, a good (eye)-opening experience for me to be a freshman and knowing what that caliber of O-line talent is and how I kind of stack myself up against them and see how I performed against them,” he said. “I think it was a great experience for me, honestly, and something that I will always remember, learn upon that and grow upon that and just keep going from there.”
–Photo courtesy ACC Communications
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