There weren't many bright spots during UConn's season-ending six-game losing streak especially on the defensive side of the ball as the Huskies gave up nearly 200 points during that span.
However, redshirt freshman defensive lineman Kevin Murphy began to show glimpses of his potential recording seven of his eight tackles in the last five games. He shared a sack in the Nov. 19 loss at Boston College and in the regular-season finale had a career-high three tackles.
Based on the first few practices open to the media during recently-concluded preseason camp, that was just the start of things for 6-foot-1, 280-pound redshirt sophomore from West Chester, Pa.
In each of the last two open practices, Murphy was seeing plenty of first-team reps ahead of Foley Fatukasi.
"Murph plays hard," UConn defensive coordinator Billy Crocket said. "He is a better athlete than people give him credit for. I think he is a pretty good functional athlete and he's got some decent strength to him. He's been pushing (Fatukasi) right along and when he comes into the game, I don't think he'll miss a beat at that position."
On the first of Randy Edsall's weekly radio shows, he told Joe D'Ambrosio that he's looking for most consistency from Fatukasi and fellow starting defensive lineman Cole Ormsby. That could explain why in the recent open practice at Rentschler Field, Murphy was the first player I saw manning the three-technique (nose tackle) position in 11 on 11 drills. On Sunday, Murphy once again say significant time with the first team as did redshirt freshman AJ Garson.
"I go out there every day, I come out every day ready to play, running to the ball which is a huge part of our defense," Murphy said. "The other guys are doing it and pushing me to do it as well."
Murphy is quick to credit Fatukasi for helping him get comfortable at his position.
"I really learned a lot from Foley and the older guys,"Murphy said. "They come out every day and give a ton effort wise, teach us how to (practice). Foley is a great guy to look at, he works hard at the point of attack. I try to emulate him the best that I can when I get out there."
So what has he learned from Fatukasi as well as last year's captain Mikal Myers about how to make the transition from a four-year starter at West Chester East High School to becoming part of the defensive line rotation with the Huskies.
"I think it is the leadership, the older guys helping all of us out, showing the guys how to work," Murphy said. "The work they have done trickles down even to the true freshmen, you see them getting reps and they are doing a heck of a job coming with great effort and great attitude every day
"Foley has taught me how to be stout in the run game, I think that is what I need to work on the most. Foley is a big, physical guy, he has great footwork and technique, great hand placement. He has taught me how to do my job, how to take on the offensive linemen."