COLUMBIA — There are eight days before the start of Marcus Murphy's fifth and final season of college football, and no one seems entirely sure how it will look.
There will be times where he'll be seen alone at the end of the field, ready to burst with the quick-footedness that made him Missouri's top option for kickoff returns when the Texas native first came to campus in 2010. Two years later, his four touchdown returns on the Tigers' inaugural Southeastern Conference season were a school record.
Sometimes, the 5-foot-9 195-pounder will be found in the backfield, a tailback as he has always been considered, and where he is currently listed as Russell Hansbrough's backup on the depth chart.
And other times, fans will have to look across the line of scrimmage, in the slot. It is there coaches hope to tap every last shred of talent their redshirt senior has to offer.
At Thursday's scrimmage, in the last of the three played during fall camp, Murphy lined up at both positions.
"I don't know if I've decided in my mind — I don't know if we have as an offensive staff yet (decided) — how we want to use him," offensive coordinator Josh Henson has said.
But this much Henson is sure of: "We just need to use him as much as we can."
Which is, of course, just fine by Murphy. His 3,191 career all-purpose yards make him eighth all-time at Missouri. Like his coaches, he isn't sure how the bulk of his contributions will come.
"I just want to come out and be the best playmaker I can be," he said Thursday.
And this much appears to be true at the end of three weeks of summer practice: Missouri could use playmakers.
They were tough to identify Thursday on Faurot Field, where quarterback Maty Mauk once again struggled to electrify without the three starting wide receivers (L'Damian Washington, Marcus Lucas and Dorial Green-Beckham) who helped make his four 2013 fill-in starts a success. During his first possession, Mauk's backward pass was gathered and toted 50-plus yards by linebacker Eric Beisel.
The sophomore never connected on a deep ball. Twice, though, Mauk found Murphy, who also logged 54 yards rushing with five carries, according to stats provided by Missouri Athletics.
Afterward, Murphy looked over to the tunnel he and his team will run out of next Saturday for the season opener against South Dakota State.
"This’ll be my last first game in the Zou," he said.
And then something seemed to dawn on him.
"Man," he said, "I'm not gonna be out here scrimmaging (in the summer) with the guys no more, you know?"
He got to reflecting on his previous four years of playing.
"You learn to absorb every experience you have," he said. "You have to take advantage of all the opportunities that maybe you took for granted or you looked over in the past."
Murphy isn't sure what the season will bring, but he's not about to let the possibilities escape him.
Supervising editor is Sean Morrison.