GAINESVILLE — Tyler Murphy worked hard in the offseason hoping to establish himself as the Gators' undisputed backup quarterback when fall camp began.
But Murphy was stunned when, three days before camp, his role suddenly changed. Junior quarterback Jeff Driskel was sidelined with an appendectomy and Murphy would temporarily take the starting role.
As Driskel runs preseason workouts from the sideline, staying mentally focused, Murphy is running the show from under center.
The starting job is not his to win, but coach Will Muschamp said there's a lot at stake for Murphy and the Gators.
"It's huge," Muschamp said. "Anytime you get in a situation where you get all the turns and reps and at-bats it helps you as a player. … We've got a motto around here, man down, man up, and I challenged the football team — it's time for somebody to respond."
Murphy, 21, has played three games since arriving in 2012, but has never thrown a pass. Yet, when practice began Friday, Murphy wanted teammates to know he's ready.
"Definitely I feel like I'm ready," said Murphy, a redshirt junior from Weathersfield, Conn. "I've worked very hard, on and off the field and in the film room. I feel like my teammates have confidence in me. I feel like the coaches have confidence in me. And now it's my job to continue to develop that confidence within my team and coaches throughout camp."
Coaches love the cliche that the backup is just a heartbeat from being the starter, but for Florida that has been much more than a saying the past several years.
When Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow was knocked out of the Kentucky game with a concussion in 2009, the burden of facing No. 4 LSU in the next game nearly fell on little-used John Brantley. As the starter in 2011, Brantley's leg injury against Alabama forced the Gators to turn to then-freshman Driskel. But Driskel had an ankle injury and third-string Jacoby Brissett made his first college start against No. 1 LSU.
So for veterans such as senior right guard Jon Halapio, seeing Murphy under center represents a chance to ensure that if something happens to their starter, the Gators would survive.
"Definitely, it can be good for us," Halapio said. "We'll get to develop our backup just in case a situation just like this would happen in the season. It's definitely good practice for us. We're not panicked or anything. Tyler has been here for awhile, he knows the offense, so we'll be fine."
Added Driskel: "He's always gone in with the look that he's one play or one injury away from being the starter. He's really attacked the offseason like he should."
Murphy was a high school dual-threat quarterback who came to UF to play receiver, but remained at quarterback. At times his patience has worn thin, but Murphy's resolve has never wavered. Now, it might all finally pay off.
"It definitely requires a lot of patience," Murphy said. "It's not a lot of fun sitting on the bench, I can tell you that much. You want to be out there, playing and stuff. I just took it as a learning tool. It's very humbling and you really mentally just have to keep working, keep going at it and just keep faith and you'll get a chance."
Antonya English can be reached at [email protected]