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NEW ORLEANS -- Florida has done a good job of shutting down mobile quarterbacks this season.
The Gators put South Carolina's Connor Shaw on the bench, intercepted Georgia's Aaron Murray three times, forced Florida State's EJ Manuel into four turnovers, and shut down Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel in the second half.
Why have they been so successful? Because of a player who has never played a down in his three seasons at Florida -- and likely never will.
|The Gators face Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater on Jan. 2, but they've faced teammate Tyler Murphy in preparation.|
Tyler Murphy -- who is third on the quarterback depth chart -- plays the role of opposing quarterbacks on the scout team. The 6-foot-2, 206-pound redshirt sophomore from Wethersfield, Conn., is a good athlete who ran for more than 1,100 yards in his high school career, and the coaching staff turns him loose every week the Gators are scheduled to face a mobile quarterback.
"He has done a good job for us," defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said. "He wasn't down on the scout team the whole time, but on the weeks I said, 'Murph, we need you in this period,' [he said], 'I got you coach.' That's a real team guy."
Murphy doesn't just get back there and wing it. He prepares for the role. Quinn says Murphy will study film of opposing QBs so he can give the defense as accurate a look as possible. Quinn sometimes will give him instructions to scramble a certain way on certain plays or tell Murphy to not even try and throw the ball but to run around for several seconds.
"It's a big help," DT Omar Hunter said. "A guy like myself, I might get out of my gap, and he might run it right in my gap, and I'll get an earful from coach, and I won't run out of my gap again."
Murphy has burned the defense plenty of times, S Josh Evans said, and while that results in some coaches yelling, it also helps out on Saturdays.
"He's a good quarterback," Evans said. "He's pretty accurate, and he gives us the look [to prepare for mobile quarterbacks]. There's not a slack off with him being that quarterback. We actually have to play pretty hard."
That work has paid off. Manziel shredded the Gators for 182 total yards in the first half of the Sept. 8 meeting in College Station, Texas, but UF clamped down in the second half and held Manziel to just 19 yards rushing and 32 yards passing. UF held Shaw to just 72 yards passing and minus-2 yards rushing before he got benched for the second half. Murray threw three interceptions and managed just 150 yards passing, which is more than 116 yards below his season average.
And the Gators intercepted Manuel three times and LB Antonio Morrison hit him so hard on a scramble that Manuel fumbled and had to leave the game for a possession.
Murphy, whom UF declined to make available for an interview, has spent a good chunk of this month simulating Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater, who ranks eighth nationally in pass efficiency and was named the Big East's Offensive Player of the Year after throwing for 3,452 yards and 25 touchdowns. Third-ranked Florida (11-1) will play No. 21 Louisville (10-2) in the Allstate Sugar Bowl on Wednesday.
"[Bridgewater] is a very athletic quarterback and [Murphy] is the type of guy who gives you that type of look," Evans said. "We know he's going to drop back and scramble a little bit, use his athleticism on certain plays, and Tyler has that to give us a great look."
It's a thankless job and Murphy's teammates admire him for taking it seriously. Not every player would.
"That's how unselfish he is," Hunter said. "He does anything for the team. If we tell him we need him to play left guard, he'll play left guard. That's just the kind of guy he is. We appreciate him for doing that, and we respect him a lot."