Note: Murray finished with a 1-9 overall record in 2012 and was last in Region 7 with an 0-5 record. It did not qualify for the 4A playoffs.
MURRAY — When Brad Paisley sang, “You got to get a little mud on the tires,” he wasn’t referring to football practice.
However, the Murray football program recently sloshed through a muddy practice on a clear, sunny early afternoon. A poor aeration system flooded the adjacent practice field that has hand-painted lines on it, forcing players to dodge puddles deep enough to engulf their cleats.
Murray High's football facilities are in the midst of renovation with the installation of an au courant new turf that’s expected to be ready for use during the 2013 season.
“The field is going to make a huge difference,” Murray second-year coach Mike Richmond said. “I know people see it on Friday nights and it looks great, but when you’re out on the field that doesn’t have the greatest drainage system — we paint our field and don’t really have numbers and hashes — so when you’re trying to teach your offense and spread the field, landmarks become a huge thing.
“So, for us to have this facility going forward and you can come out in the spring and run routes and know where to line up on the hashes” will be nice, Richmond continued. "You’re limited to what you can do on a grass field and no lines. The difference is going to be made in the offseason when we can practice in inclement weather and have landmarks to learn our systems.”
After another losing season, focusing on the little details is important in a still relatively new system.
“Our 1-9 season last year I don’t think was indicative of the type of players we had. They went through a lot of changing with coaching staffs,” Richmond said. “Nothing bad about the type of kids we had, but we’ve got some kids that are really hungry and really eager. I expect us to definitely improve upon our record and if we stay healthy hopefully make some noise in region and see if we can get to postseason play.”
Typically, spectators forget that first-year coaches are adjusting to their new surroundings too. Now in his second year, Richmond feels like the coaching staff and players are both more comfortable.
“We’re getting there. We’re kind of going through our install on our offense, and it just feels like we’re so much further ahead than where we were a year ago,” Richmond said. “Learning from our mistakes last year as a new staff, I think the players are adjusted to what to expect now. We’ve really seen things come together and be a lot smoother this year.”
During a recent practice only 30 to 40 players were suited up during varsity time. The Spartans will be outnumbered in nearly every game this season, making depth an extreme concern.
“We don’t have a lot of guys. We probably have 85 kids in our entire program, so we don’t have 150 kids like a lot of the schools we’ll compete with,” Richmond said. “It’ll be important for us to keep those kids healthy. We’ll have a bunch of guys playing on both sides of the football, so fatigue can be an issue late in games”
Murray Spartans at a glance
Coach: Mike Richmond posted a 1-9 record in his debut high school coaching season. He’s a graduate of Reedley High in California and the University of Utah, where he played quarterback.
(2 returning starters; Multiple-set offense)
The majority of the starters are gone from an offense that struggled mightily in 2012. But with the eight viable contributors on the offensive line, the offense should see improvement.
“I think that one thing that was a bit of a weakness last year was our offensive line. It wasn’t that we didn’t have personnel, but we just had a lot of injuries last year,” Richmond said. “It was a revolving door. I don’t think we had the same starting five offensive linemen in any game last year. This year, we went up to the Ute Shoot and I think there were 42 schools and our guys placed ninth. The only top 10 schools from 4A were Murray and East. I think that really says something about our youth.”
Richmond’s son, Riley, is slated to command the offense as a junior quarterback this season.
“(He’s) not a big kid, but he’s a competitor and throws the ball really well,” Richmond said. “He’s been around the game a long time. Really smart player. He’ll check us in and get us into the right plays. He’s got a great football mind.”
Mitch Rasmussen, who Richmond tabbed as “extremely shifty and tough to contain,” is a threat at scatback despite his short stature.
(2 returning starters)
Ethan Barnett, who also led the team in receiving with 26 catches, returns as the voice of the defense at free safety after buffing up 20 pounds in the offseason.
Ashton Hagen is an instinctive strong safety in the run game and Taylor Litson adds depth to the secondary at corner. All three players will also start on offense at receiver.
Coaches preseason Region 7 straw poll: Seventh
Deseret News Region 7 prediction: Seventh
Bottom line: Murray is making strides behind Richmond. The energy is steadily growing and players are slowly starting to stay in the boundaries. However, there is still a lot of work to be done to be competitive on a weekly basis. Depth is a legitimate concern — especially as the season progresses. The Spartans certainly could improve upon last year's one-win season, but making the playoffs seems out of reach at this point in time.
Murray coaching history
2012-current — Mike Richmond (1-9)
2007-2011 — Dan Aragon (8-39)
2003-2006 — George Georgelas (18-24)
2002 — Wes Meier (2-8)
1988-2001 — Wade Meier (63-80)
1984-1987 — Dale Pehrson (10-28)
1981-1982 — Gene McKeehan (5-11)
1974-1980 — Ron Haun (44-19)
1972-1973 — Dan Slaugh (6-12-1)
1970-1971 — Gene McKeehan (8-10)
1969 — Jerry Saffell (3-6)
1968 — Rex Wright (4-4-1)
1965-1967 — Joe Hansen (8-19-1)
1964 — Wayne Reid (0-7-1)
1963 — Bill Dickey (2-6-1)
1956-1962 — Ray Oliverson (24-34-4)
1949-1955 — Allan Davis (36-27)
1948 — Ken Farrell (5-2)
1945-1947 — unknown (6-13-1)
1942-1944 — Verl Meyrick (7-14-2)
1937-1941 — Paul Rose (18-20)
1933-1936 — Gil Soesinger (16-12-3)
1932 — unknown (3-4)
1931 — Mr. Swenson (3-4-1)
1920-1930 — unknown (23-27-5)
1919 — W.L. Gardner (2-4-1)
1916 — unknown (0-3)
Deseret News First Team all-staters the past 10 years
2006 — James Aiono, DL
To view second team and honorable mention all-staters through the years, check out the Deseret News All-State Archives.
Email: email@example.com Twitter: @TPhibbsDNews
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company