Ute TE Jake Murphy emerges in Utah offense

Published: Monday, Sept. 3 2012 11:39 p.m. MDT

Utah tight end Jake Murphy scores the first touchdown of the Utes' season-opening win over Northern Colorado.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — When he was a younger lad, Utah tight end Jake Murphy would join his family in attending Utah State games at Romney Stadium. They made the trips to watch Jake's brother, Shawn, play for the Aggies on the offensive line.

"It was awesome. I was in high school and to me it was like watching the NFL back then," Jake said of the Cache Valley trips in 2006 and 2007. "So it was awesome going up there. It was a lot of fun."

Now, five years later, the Murphy family is headed back to Logan — this time to watch Jake, who enters Friday night's game at Utah State as Utah's leading receiver. The sophomore caught six passes for 78 yards and two touchdowns in last week's 41-0 win over Northern Colorado.

"It was awesome," Murphy said. "You can never be satisfied but at the same time you've got to be thankful and I feel blessed to be able to do that in a game."

Murphy had a career night, surpassing the numbers he posted in 10 games as a freshman in 2011 when he had five catches, 64 yards and one touchdown.

"I thought we under-utilized him last year," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. "And, at least in this past ball game, he showed what his capabilities are and we hope he's a weapon for us all year long."

Murphy has similar hopes. He acknowledged that things are working out well since signing with Utah after serving an LDS Church mission in Australia.

"I had no idea what position I would play coming in. I didn't know if it would be defense or offense," Murphy said. "I didn't really know what to expect. But it's kind of shown me that it's all happened for a reason the way it's fallen into place. It's been good."

Murphy is part of a talented group of tight ends that have gained prominence in the Ute offense. After last week's season opener, Whittingham noted that Murphy has unbelievable ball skills for a tight end. At 6-foot-4 and 252 pounds, he's tough to miss.

Even so, at least 16 of Murphy's relatives will be watching his every move on Friday.

"It's a big family and they're very supportive of each other," Whttingham said of the planned gathering at Utah State.

The reunion, of sorts, will include Shawn. He was a two-year starter for the Aggies before being drafted by the NFL's Miami Dolphins in 2008.

The football connection involving sons of former Major League Baseball star Dale Murphy isn't surprising to Whittingham.

"Not at all. They're great athletes," he said, while noting that Jake is an excellent baseball player as well. "Dale probably could have been a pro football player if he wanted to be. It's just in the family. So it doesn't surprise me a bit."

EXTRA POINTS: Utah defensive line coach Chad Kauha'aha'a, fullbacks/tight ends coach Ilaisa Tuiaki and offensive graduate assistant Robert Conley worked under ex-Ute defensive coordinator Gary Andersen at Utah State. Several guys with Utah ties are currently on Andersen's staff with the Aggies — assistant head coach Mike Sanford, linebackers coach Kevin Clune, strength coach Evan Simon, director of football operations Mark Andersen, team coordinator Steve Mathis and defensive graduate assistant Spencer Toone. … Junior tight end Westlee Tonga is expected to miss the game because of a concussion. … Former Ute John Cullen, who earned Pac-12 all-conference honors last season, has rejoined the team as a student assistant coach while completing course work on his degree.

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