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Doug Robinson: Utah turns out to be the right fit for Jake Murphy

Published: Saturday, Aug. 20 2011 11:48 p.m. MDT

"It's an inherent thing with athletes' kids," says Dale. "People tend to have higher expectations. It was more pronounced when I was still playing and our older sons played Little League. There was undeserved pressure. My philosophy was, go out there and have fun, and if you enjoy it, work at it."

Taylor, the fifth child, was a promising baseball player at Utah Valley University, but his career was cut short by a severe shoulder injury. "He may have had a shot at possibly getting drafted," his father says, "but he redshirted the year after his mission and was injured during fall camp the next year — an injury that put him so far behind that he pretty much had to stop playing."

Jake was a second-team all-state shortstop in baseball, sporting a .400-plus batting average as both a junior and senior. He was good enough that scouts watched a few of his games, and his dad was able to arrange for a brief tryout with the Braves that consisted mostly of taking batting practice with the team at the age of 18 prior to a game against Oakland.

"I just came out because there's a possibility of getting drafted," he told reporter Jon Cooper at the time. "If that offer was better than a scholarship, then I'd take that. I've talked to the Braves, the Giants and Cubs."

"He hasn't played a lot of baseball but you can tell he has some skills," said Braves hitting coach Terry Pendleton. "He's a Murphy. I think it's just a matter of him getting a lot of baseball time in to develop his hitting. He's got some potential there. No doubt about that."

He was four years old when his father retired from baseball, so he didn't have to endure as much of the pressure that came with the family name (he admits that on occasion, when he's "bored," he looks at highlight footage from his father's career).

"Jake hopes he can play baseball on the collegiate level," says Dale. "It's not easy to do, but he may give it a shot after a couple of years of football. He'll just have to see how it goes."

On the gridiron, Jake was a first-team all-state wide receiver/safety in high school, catching 44 passes for 853 yards and 13 touchdowns as a senior.

"He committed so early (to BYU) that we didn't get the chance to recruit him," says Whittingham. That oversight would prove to be a blessing for the Utes.

With their close ties to BYU, the Murphys deflect questions about Jake's transfer. According to a source, it was a complex case of miscommunication. The short version of a long story: Jake was originally supposed to leave for his mission in December 2008, but got his departure moved to October. After serving in Australia nearly two years, he was released in August 2010 to enable him to enroll in time for fall semester.

Meanwhile, BYU still believed Jake was returning in December and had no scholarship available for him until winter semester. BYU had hoped to remedy the situation by grayshirting Jake, but he wanted to be part of the team immediately. Because the Utes had not recruited Jake, they were able to offer him a scholarship in the fall. Upon returning from his mission, Jake, accompanied by his father, drove straight to a Ute practice session to observe, and that was that.

"There are no hard feelings; it really was an honest oversight on BYU's part" is pretty much all Dale will say.

So a promising young player has fallen into the Utes' lap.

"He's going to be a very good player in this program," says Whittingham. "He's just a freshman. He's taking strides forward every day. He was a wide receiver in high school, and so everything he's doing as a tight end and H-back is new. He's a tough kid and he's very athletic."

email: drob@desnews.com

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