PALO ALTO, Calif. -- Opposing defensive ends lining up against San Clemente High School are up against Murphy's Law.
Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong. Compliments of OT Kyle Murphy.
Behind the 6-foot-6, 270 pound junior, San Clemente finished with an 8-3 record in 2010, losing only to perennial powers Mater Dei, Mission Viejo and Lakewood. The Triton tailbacks rushed for more than 2,000 yards and 28 touchdowns, and as Murphy went, so did the entire offense.
Heading into this past season, Murphy wasn't on many schools' radar screens. He held an offer from Duke and had a bloodline advantage -- his brother is the starting left tackle at Harvard -- but still, he was firmly in the shadow of some of the bigger names among the 2012 class of West Coast offensive line talent.
Kyle Williams, formerly of the Seattle Seahawks, began assisting with the offensive line at San Clemente last season, and still remembers the first time he saw Murphy break out of his stance.
"I thought from watching him play, he was one of the better high school players I'd ever seen," Williams said. "He was solid all around -- size, technique, all of that -- I thought he was light years ahead of where I was at that stage."
Williams said he was floored when he asked Murphy to list all the schools that had offered him.
"I said there's no way Duke is the only school."
As it turned out, both Murphy and Williams only had to wait a few months. After the season, Murphy's film began to circulate and college coaches had seen enough. Offers from SMU, Stanford, California and Washington came in, and schools such as USC, Auburn, Florida, Notre Dame and Oregon soon followed suit.
If it's tough for high school defensive ends to beat Murphy off the snap, it might be even more difficult for coaches and analysts to pinpoint his biggest strength on the field. They usually bounce between his tremendous footwork, solid punch or hip movement that is typically seen in a much smaller player.
This past Sunday, a few coaches had an opportunity to see Murphy up close at the Stanford Nike Football Training Camp. Assistant offensive line coaches Greg Pedemonte and Nick Ekbatani agreed that in a group of possibly the best top-tier offensive line talent to ever grace that particular camp, Murphy was one of the players who stood out.
"He's a stud," Ekbatani said. "He has all the tools you want in a college tackle."
Murphy called it a "pretty good" day for him, as he was certainly one of the many Southern California players thrown for a loop by pelting rain and hail at the start of the camp. But ultimately, Murphy said his athleticism allowed him to settle in and put together a solid performance.
It turned out to be strong enough to earn an invitation to Nike's "The Opening," where Murphy will have an opportunity as one of the top-18 offensive linemen in the country to go up against a group of the top defensive linemen. To go from virtually unknown a few months ago to being regarded as possibly a top-20 talent at his position nationally says plenty about Murphy's growth.
"I think he's going to be great," Williams said. "With his footwork and hips right now, he's so far advanced from where a lot of kids his age are. And almost all of that stuff is natural."
It's that athleticism that will allow Murphy to choose from a host of schools at the next level. Of course, a 3.96 GPA doesn't hurt either. While he said he hasn't begun narrowing things down yet -- he expects to begin doing so during the summer -- Williams thinks Murphy will likely wait until after the high school season ends to make a final decision.
Last season, San Clemente was able to rely on both Murphy and right tackle Andrew Strange, who will be moving onto Harvard this fall. That means the field will likely shift even more to the left this year, as the Tritons will do almost everything behind Murphy. And while Murphy will continue to receive plenty of attention for what he accomplishes on the football field, Williams said that it's the attention he doesn't receive off of it that could take him even further.
"He has a really good head on his shoulders," Williams said. "He doesn't get in trouble. He's very good academically. He's going to go to the next level and it's all up to him from there."