SAN CLEMENTE -- It's the same routine each and every time. Like clockwork.
Kyle Murphy makes his way toward the line of scrimmage and the highly-touted offensive tackle from San Clemente checks out the opposing defense shuffling directly in front of him.
Locating where the pass-rushing specialist on end is positioned is the first order of business. Glancing nearby in the direction of the nose guard follows. Getting an all-important read on what the linebacking corps have in store, accurate or not, essentially prepares him for what comes next.
Murphy proceeds to set up in his standard three-point stance.
The snap awaits, mere seconds way. He lives for these moments.
“It gets ugly out there on the football field sometimes, because if you get in the way of Kyle Murphy, you're just asking for trouble,'' San Clemente coach John Hamro said.
With the ball set in motion, Murphy explodes from his customary crouch. Anyone standing in his way at the point of attack is left irrelevant. A devastating pancake block at the second level brings the crowd to its feet and clears a wide-open path for a teammate's run to the end zone.
It's the same routine each and every time. Like clockwork. Murphy's preparation is key. The senior rarely, if ever, takes a play off. And his determination this season has enabled him to emerge as one of the most sought-after unsigned recruits in the country.
“I play the game at full speed, all the time, it's the only way to get things done,'' Murphy said. “I have worked to get to this point, and with my size and strength, I feel like I can do things other players can't. I want to prove that I can go hold my own every time I step out on the field.''
Murphy has done more than that this season for San Clemente (8-1 overall), which is No. 13 in the ESPNLosAngeles.com Top 25 rankings. All signs point to him doing so once again Friday night in the regular-season finale against visiting Rancho Santa Margarita Tesoro.
Travis Wilson has been the primary beneficiary of Murphy's consistent play. With plenty of time in the pocket to pass, the Utah-bound quarterback has completed close to 60 percent of his throws for 1,348 yards and 14 touchdowns. He also has rushed for five scores.
Murphy has opened up more than a few running lanes for Mike Elespuru too. The senior has rushed for a team-high 1,009 yards and reached the end zone 11 times on the ground.
“We have a lot of weapons, but no one is as important to this team as Kyle,'' Hamro said. “He is one of those players that comes along once every 20 years. He is one of those players that comes around once in a lifetime for a coach like me. Kyle is talented. He works hard. His teammates respect him. They don't make kids like him anymore, with his leadership, size and strength.''
At 6 feet 6 and 270-plus pounds, Murphy is quite the menacing presence.
When talking about the intimidation factor, however, there's more to it than meets the eye. His frame is impressive, but Murphy has the demeanor to match the physical attributes.
His mindset is to thoroughly dominate opponents from the opening kickoff until the final seconds tick off the fourth-quarter clock. Winning every battle waged in the trenches is paramount. One need not look any further than a few of his highlight tapes for proof.
Rest assured, college coaches and scouts alike have kept close tabs on Murphy this season. He is, after all, one of the nation's premier prospects at his position.
“The interesting thing about Kyle is, if you didn't know better, you would never have an idea that he is thought of as the best tackle in the country,'' Hamro said. “He doesn't feed into the hype. He doesn't get caught up. He is a humble kid. Mature beyond his years, I think.
“When it's game time, Kyle is a handful to deal with it. His ultimate goal is dominate each and every time. He is extremely intense. Single-minded. He looks to finish off every play. Kyle never takes his foot off the gas pedal. He goes full speed until the whistle blows.''
ESPN Recruiting ranks Murphy as the Southland's top player, ahead of counterparts such as Downey's Jabari Ruffin, Monrovia's Ellis McCarthy and Santa Margarita's Max Tuerk. Other peers that pale in comparison are Lakewood's Darius Powe and Inglewood's Derrick Woods.
On a much broader scale, Murphy is rated as the country's No. 5 offensive tackle. He is the No. 26 player overall and has been a fixture on ESPN 150 Watch List for quite a while now.
“Kyle is one of those prospects that, every time we see him, he impresses us,'' said Craig Haubert, a national recruiting analyst for ESPN. “He needs to develop his frame and add more mass, but overall this is a kid with the size and athleticism to excel at the tackle position.
“The big man possesses very good flexibility, balance and agility, and can be equally productive as a pass blocker and run blocker. In the run game, he can come off the ball low and hard, and knock defenders off the ball, and in addition to being physical and tough enough to open running lanes. He is also athletic enough to get downfield and block well on his feet in space.
“There is a deep pool of talent at the offensive tackle position this year, and while Murphy still needs to get bigger and polish his technique, he thus far has proven that he belongs near the top of that talented group of prospects. Murphy is not only one of the premier offensive tackle prospects out on the West Coast, but we feel he is one of the top offensive tackles in the nation.''
Perhaps Haubert is onto something. Division I schools from all over the country, including numerous powerhouse programs, agree about the upside Murphy possesses.
He has scholarship offers on the table from 20 different colleges, most notably Alabama, Auburn and Oklahoma. Closer to home, seemingly everyone from the Pac-12 Conference is interested in Murphy. Nearby UCLA and USC are in constant contact with as a result.
“Recruiting is going well, it's been crazy at times,'' Murphy said. “I have a lot of options and that's nice. I'm not worried about committing right now. My focus is on the next game. If I take care of things on the field, things will take care of themselves off the field.''
In terms of his future at the next level, Murphy's final destination is a bit uncertain. In the meantime, this much we know from his past: His approach to the game is not going to change any time soon.
It's the same routine each and every time. Like clockwork.
Sean Ceglinsky covers preps for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.