Murphy-Richardson Makes It Official

The defense's improvement under Head Coach Todd Graham has been dramatic ever since he arrived in Tempe prior to the 2012 season. Yet, the Sun Devils will return just two defensive starters in 2014, putting an emphasis on finding capable defensive replacements in this year's recruiting class. Signee Ismael Murphy-Richardson is slated as one of the players who will fill that void.

Ismael Murphy-Richardson has been literally mum about his recruitment process and has yet to comment, until today, about his Arizona State pledge which he gave on January 19th. We caught up the local Goodyear Desert Edge product at the National Football Foundation function honoring all the local high school seniors who signed their National Letters of Intent today.

"It feels great actually," Murphy-Richardson said. "I feel like ASU is a great choice for me and it's a great fit. It was a close running between USC and ASU but in the end, it just felt right to stay home."

At 6-4 and 215 pounds, Murphy-Richardson is a three-star linebacker who was rated by as the No. 11 outside linebacker in the region, and 45th nationally at his position. He earned First-Team Arizona All-State Division III honors by the Arizona Republic after his senior season, a campaign where he recorded 61 tackles including 20 for loss with one sack as well as three interceptions and two fumble recoveries returned for touchdowns.

Earlier in the recruiting process, Murphy-Richardson was overwhelmed with phone calls from both coaches and media, and subsequently all of the recruiting communication was handled by Wellbrock. This created an ultimately false perception that the linebacker was an extremely reserved individual.

"He's an outgoing kid that has been the leader of our defense for the last couple of years," Wellbrock said. "The reason why he wasn't talking and flying under the radar was that he didn't go on the camp circuit and do all these things kids do today. He didn't take a bunch of unofficial visits. He's a kid that just played for his high school team and his play spoke for itself. At times he was just taking over games."

Despite holding offers from Texas A&M, Florida, Missouri, and USC, amongst others, the talented linebacker felt the most comfortable with the hometown school.

"ASU had been recruiting just as long as the Washington staff and, as you know, the Washington staff went to USC," Murphy-Richardson recalled. "So they've both been with it since the very beginning, back when I was a junior, and they were with me all the way through it."

"I had a good foundation with ASU so I decided to stay here."

Desert Edge Head Coach, Rich Wellbrock, echoed those same sentiments.

"I don't think before he went on the (ASU) visit that he felt that way (about ASU)," Wellbrock stated. "But on his visit everything felt right to him. He had the right fit with the staff and the players. I'm glad he ended up there. I thought he may end up out of state, so when I got the phone call from him that he wanted to be a Sun Devil I couldn't be more excited."

For the valley native, staying close to home was a contributing factor in Murphy-Richardson's decision to commit to the Sun Devils on Wednesday but what stood out the most to the linebacker throughout the recruiting process were the relationships he developed with the Arizona State coaching staff, and in particular Recruiting Coordinator and Tight Ends Coach, Chip Long.

"Everyone is genuine to their own certain standards but Coach Long came and he wanted to see how I was," he said. "It wasn't all about the flash and telling me what I wanted to hear. He wanted to see how I was inside and I wanted to see how they are inside as well.

"And Coach Graham, he's real big on character and my mom likes that, so basically she was like, ‘I'm all for it.'"

Wellbrock mentioned an additional member of the Sun Devil coaching staff that was also significant in the recruitment.

"I told him early in the recruiting process that he has to feel comfortable with his position coach and (ASU's linebackers) Coach Randolph has done an outstanding job making him feel as comfortable as possible," Wellbrock commented. "He (Murphy-Richardson) loves the direction the program is going in and the success they had. I know kids always say they want to get away, but at the end of the day they want to be able to wave to someone they know in the stands and not have them watch him on TV.

"When they run out of the tunnel they want to know what section their family and friends are at. I think that this was the biggest deal. He's playing for the Pac-12 South champion and getting his education paid for, so it all worked out in the end."

Of course, it certainly helped that the Sun Devils posted their first 10-win season since 2007 while going a perfect 5-0 against divisional foes to capture the team's first Pac-12 South title and earning the right to host the Pac-12 Conference Championship game at Sun Devil Stadium.

"My relationships with the coaches played a good role in it but success always plays a role at the same time," he added. "And my opportunity to play early also played a role in my decision and like I said, it was just a good fit for me."

Murphy-Richardson is one of just a few players Graham and the staff will take a look at for the Devil backer position leading up to the fall. With the departure of Carl Bradford, who opted to forego his senior season and enter this year's NFL Draft, the Sun Devils have an immediate hole to fill and one Murphy-Richardson looks forward to competing for.

"You go back to last year and he was offered by Michigan as a wide receiver," ," Wellbrock said of his linebacker. "The versatility and the body frame that he has that will really fill in once he has those (training table) meals...obviously going to a big time school with a big time strength and conditioning program…the sky in the limit for this kid.

"He's versatile enough to rush the passer and drop into coverage and those are going to be key at the next level. He just has so much more length than so many kids. He a great vision of the field and a nose for the football. If a ball in on the ground there can be 21 players around it and he will be the player that picks it up.

"I don't think that the fact that never played with his hand in the ground will be an obstacle for him. It's not going to take him long to figure out anything. He just needs to get into the weight room and get bigger, stronger, and faster. I think it will come very easy for him. He can put on 50 lbs. and still run the same speed. He has size 17 shoes so he is still growing."

"I've been to a couple games. I've watched him," said Murphy-Richardson of Bradford. "I want to do all that I can to be better than him. I want to make my name be remembered for the rest of my life."

The Sun Devil defense limited opponents to just 372.4 yards per game in 2013 while leading the Pac-12 in interceptions (21) and turnover margin (+15).

Its aggressive, attacking mentality is predicated on the play-making abilities of each play, something that also appealed to Murphy-Richardson.

"Hybrid. It's where it's at," he described. "If you want to make plays, then ASU is where you want to be. It fits perfectly because I love to make plays, no matter where it's at. It could be on special teams or whatever, I just love to make plays."

With signing day officially out of the way, Murphy-Richardson says he can now focus on finishing his final semester of high school before making his arrival in Tempe this summer.

But before fall camp rolls around, there are still a few things he hopes to accomplish before he and most of the newest Sun Devil commits make their push for playing time.

"Definitely my strength and my size," he said. "I may be tall but I'm kind of skinny. I'm trying to gain 25 pounds of muscle. I'm also working on my speed and my instincts, just being able to read the linemen, the plays, and have good football smarts."

Murphy-Richardson is just one of three local commits Arizona State secured in this year's class, along with wide receiver Tyler Whiley and offensive lineman Quinn Bailey.

With so several holes to fill on defense, the opportunity is there for Murphy-Richardson to become one of the first players in this year's recruiting class to see the field for the Sun Devils. But even with the high expectations to perform hanging over his head, Murphy-Richardson remains ready for the challenge.

"I don't think it really fazes me. I think it motivates me," he said. "I'd rather be the guy they expect to come in and do something than the guy they expect to come in and just be a back-up." "I want to start, man. I want to make a difference from day one."

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