Murphy's Law: Less Fried Chicken

FAYETTEVILLE — No one should ever confuse fried chicken for chicken salad. They don't taste anything alike.

Arkansas tight end Wes Murphy knows that.

But as much as he likes devouring a plate of fried chicken, Murphy decided this summer that it was in his best interest to watch his diet and go with a healthier choice, instead.

He wanted to slim down so that he could come into his senior season better prepared for what is expected to be a beefier role for him in Arkansas' revamped offense.

"I like fried chicken a lot, so I kind of had to stay away from fried chicken," Murphy said. "Or if I did eat fried chicken, that would be my only meat for that one day.

"But really, I ate a lot of chicken salad. I don't think I ate a hamburger all summer."

Used mostly as a blocking tight end, Murphy played last season at around 280 pounds. But the Shiloh Christian graduate watched what he ate this summer and did extra running to get his weight down to 250 pounds.

"He's moving a lot better, and I'm glad he's down in weight," Arkansas tight ends coach James Shibest said. "The great thing is he really hasn't lost any strength."

Murphy started five games at tight end last season — including the last three — but he caught only one pass for 17 yards.

He was used mostly as an extra blocker, but his role should change some with new offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn taking over the playcalling.

Malzahn showed during his time as the Sprindale High coach that he likes to run plays that get the ball into his tight end's hands.

"There is going to be a lot of opportunities, especially in play-action, that we're going to need those guys to be playmakers for us," Shibest said, referring to the tight ends. "So, that's what we're hoping for at that position right now."

Along with keeping a close eye on his diet, Murphy prepared for his increased role in the offense by spending more time in the summer catching passes.

He snagged spirals from a passing machine, and he worked with every quarterback he could find, including the three who are competing for Arkansas' starting job.

"I'm not going to say I have better hands because I feel like I always had good hands," Murphy said. "I have just gotten back into the routine of catching the ball. It's kind of like riding a bike."

And when it came time to getting advice on how to play the tight end position, Murphy went to an awfully knowledgeable source.

After catching a few extra passes following a morning practice earlier this week, Murphy met with former NFL All-Pro tight end Keith Jackson for a brief one-on-one session.

As players filed out of Arkansas' indoor practice facility, Murphy and Jackson stood at one end of the field, discussing "tight end jargon."

"It's really neat when somebody says, ‘OK, well, what do you think about this? What do you think about that?'" said Jackson, who works as a color analyst for Arkansas football games.

The advice should come in handy.

Murphy, a former defensive end, enters the season as Arkansas' clear-cut starter at tight end. It appears former offensive tackle Andrew Davie could also see some playing time, though he's considered to be more of a blocking tight end.

"In order for us to be successful, (we) realize everybody has to get involved," Murphy said, "including the tight end."

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