Updated on Monday at 6:15 p.m.
Quarterback Tyler Murphy, who was expected to be a redshirt senior competing for a starting job with the Florida Gators in 2014, chose on Sunday to leave the program and pursue other options, a decision that reportedly shocked head coach Will Muschamp.
Muschamp, who denied to The Gainesville Sun’s Pat Dooley this week that Murphy was planning to leave the Gators after saying he had already spoken with the player and his family, told him on Sunday that Murphy did not attend the team’s annual postseason banquet and suddenly became aloof over the weekend.
He called Murphy, who didn’t answer but eventually responded with a long text message saying he felt he needed to go somewhere where he’d get a chance to start, Muschamp said.
“I told him it would be an open competition, just like I told him Jeff Driskel would be our starter last year,” Muschamp said.
Murphy completed the requirements for his bachelor’s degree in the fall and graduated on Saturday. He can transfer to another program and be eligible to play immediately without being forced to sit out a full season.
But he tells a different version of the story to GatorCountry.com, stating that he did originally tell Muschamp earlier in the week that he had not decided to transfer but also made the coaching staff aware that he would be unable to attend the banquet as he was taking his parents to the airport at that time.
Once he and his family decided his fate during that car ride, he tried to arrange a face-to-face meeting with Muschamp on Sunday. Instead, he was told to call Muschamp. The coach did not pick up, so Murphy sent the aforementioned text message and waited for a return call, which he received immediately.
“He wasn’t happy with [the decision to leave]. He told me he didn’t think it was a good decision for me. We kind of just went back and forth a little bit, talking about the whole situation and stuff for next year. When he kind of felt where I was leaning towards he said he appreciated everything I’ve done and stuff like that. When we hung up I thought everything was good.”
Murphy said he never intended to break the news to Muschamp via text message.
“I never tried to tell him what was going on through text,” he said. “I sent him a text kind of just so when he saw the missed call he knew what I was calling about and I could get his attention so hopefully he would call me back when he was free.”
“I was never trying to duck on him or not do it in a mature way,” Murphy said. “It just so happened that he had to hear it from me through text because he didn’t pick up my call and I couldn’t meet with him in his office.”
Criticism began to rain down on both parties Monday with some upset about the way Murphy reportedly left and others infuriated that Muschamp would allegedly paint the player in a bad light, especially one who had been a model member of the program.
The quarterback’s father, Peter Murphy, fell in the later category and discussed his concerns later Monday with Phillip Heilman of the Palm Beach Post ($).
According to the elder Murphy, the family did not believe that the Gators quarterback competition would actually be “open” with Tyler Murphy being given a fair chance at winning the job. It is their opinion that Muschamp would’ve kept Tyler Murphy as his “ace in the hole,” especially considering he had never been given a “real chance” to compete for the job in the past.
After sticking by the Gators through thick and thin for four years, Tyler Murphy finally got a chance to play meaningful snaps in 2013. In his first action, as an injury replacement for Driskel against Tennessee, he completed 8-of-14 passes for 134 yards and a touchdown, gaining 84 yards on 10 carries and scoring again with his legs.
In Murphy’s first start, he went 15-for-18 for 157 yards and gained 36 yards on seven carries against Kentucky. He also scored two touchdowns – one throwing, one rushing. Murphy’s magic continued in his subsequent start against Arkansas, when he completed 16-of-22 passes for 240 yards and three touchdowns.
Things began to go downhill for Murphy when he injured his shoulder against LSU on Oct. 10. He only completed 50.6 percent of his passes over a three-game span, failing to secure a passing touchdown but tossing one interception.
Muschamp refused to address whether Murphy potentially had a serious shoulder injury – such as a torn AC joint – and consistently referred to the injury as a sprain.
The final game of Murphy’s Florida career game against Vanderbilt. He hit career marks with 30 completions on 46 attempts for 305 yards but only threw a single touchdown while coughing up three interceptions.
Murphy was simply never the same after getting injured against LSU, and his shoulder ailment became a point of contention later in the season. Though he was obviously limited but still played four games, he was suddenly ruled out against South Carolina but not deemed to be done for the season.
Peter Murphy does not raise issue with the gamesmanship aspect of Muschamp downplaying his son’s injury, which he called a third-degree separation rather than a sprain, but rather the fact that the coach harshly criticized him after his poor performance against VU.
“[Muschamp] said you can’t win with a quarterback throwing three interceptions, but you can’t win with a quarterback playing with a third-degree shoulder separation either,” Peter Murphy told the Post. “He couldn’t lift his arm over his shoulder to take his hat off, and they’ve got him out there starting against Georgia and against Missouri and against Vanderbilt. He should never have been out there.”
With Murphy’s departure, the Gators are now incredibly thin at the quarterback position. He is the second signal caller to leave the program this offseason, joining freshman Max Staver, who announced his decision to transfer late last week.
Driskel, who will be able to take a medical redshirt due to the broken leg he suffered at Tennessee, will return in 2014 as a redshirt junior and the presumed starter. However, his recovery timetable is far from certain.
Incoming four-star freshman Will Grier (Davidson, NC) hoped to redshirt his first season as a collegian but could potentially be forced into action.
Future redshirt sophomore Skyler Mornhinweg started the final three games of 2013, but Florida game planned two of those contests around him throwing the ball. With the offensive coordinator that recruited him no longer with the program, Mornhinweg is undoubtedly at least considering opportunities he might have elsewhere.
Perhaps next up for the Gators would be second-year thrower Chris Wilkes, a 24-year-old former baseball player who chose to turn in his glove for a helmet and walk on to the Florida football team this past season.
Photo Credit: Mark Zerof/USA Today