COLUMBIA — Marcus Murphy only has a few seconds to prove himself.
The freshman running back, who is now the Missouri football team’s primary kick returner, is spending less time with the offense and more with special teams. As the fourth running back in the team’s rotation, Murphy might be easy to overlook, but he hopes his kick returns will make him stand out.
No. 3 Oklahoma Sooners (6-0, 2-0)
at No. 18 Missouri Tigers (6-0, 2-0)
WHEN: 7 p.m.
WHERE: Memorial Stadium, Columbia
RADIO: KTGR/1580 AM and 100.5 FM, KCQM/96.7 FM - Mike Kelly (play-by-play), John Kadlec (color), Chris Gervino (sidelines)
TV: ABC Sports - Brent Musburger (play-by-play), Kirk Herbstreit (analyst), Erin Andrews (sideline reporter)
SERIES: Oklahoma leads, 66-23-5 and has won seven straight since Missouri’s last win in 1998.
“I just try to do all I can for the team,” Murphy said. “You know, they put me on kick return, and I just try to make the best of my position, do the best I can and take that ball down the field.”
After former kick returner Jasper Simmons’s injury and suspension, Murphy took advantage of the situation to become the team’s No. 1 kick returner. He has been returning kicks since high school, so he felt prepared for the task. He said it’s simple as long as he controls his focus.
“I just sit back there and try to stay comfortable, keep my mind right,” Murphy said.
Teammate and close friend Henry Josey said that he is happy Murphy was given the chance to return kicks because it gives him a chance to make a name for himself beyond being the No. 4 running back. Not only does Murphy have a lot of potential, Josey said, but he also knows his success or failure has the power to swing the momentum of the game.
“It’s really good for him,” Josey said. “I look forward to it every week, when it’s his turn for the kick return. He’s going to get one of those kick returns and take one back. He’s going to get one.”
It remains to be seen whether Murphy can return a kick for a touchdown this season, but Murphy is confident in his ability. Murphy knows he has a chance to prove his value each time he is on the field returning kicks.
“I think it’s a good opportunity for me to show my skills and my abilities,” Murphy said.
Despite his experience, Murphy said he still needs to improve in order to be successful at the collegiate level. Simmons has helped his younger teammate get used to the position. He said Murphy is good at seeing the holes in the defense, but he wants Murphy to have bigger returns. He thought Murphy had a chance for a big play in Saturday’s game against Texas A&M, but Murphy was unable to keep his footing. Even so, that was just one missed opportunity. Simmons said there will be many more chances to come for the freshman.
“Sooner or later he’s going to take one to the crib,” Simmons said.
Although Simmons and Josey are confident in Murphy’s ability to make a big play, Murphy is trying to focus more on details such as the mechanics of his run and the split-second decisions he needs to make. He knows his job rests on those nanosecond judgments.
He needs to think faster than he runs.