90 days to USC football: Connor Murphy on the verge of a role

RoT Countdown / Photo by Alicia de Artola (Reign of Troy)
RoT Countdown / Photo by Alicia de Artola (Reign of Troy) /

With 90 days to go until USC football begins the 2019 season, defensive lineman Connor Murphy is on the verge of finding a role for the Trojans.

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The countdown to USC football’s 2019 kickoff against Fresno State continues with No. 90, a number for Trojans who spent their careers holding down the fort in the trenches.

There are, after all, just 90 days of waiting until the Coliseum hosts the men of Troy again.

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Now, it’s time to take a look at the history of the jersey, and where it might go from here:

Who wore it best?

The No. 90 has been a strong representative for USC’s defensive line over the years.

In the late 1980s, Dan Owens made his name by playing in opposing backfields from the interior line. Though he was never more than 275 pounds at USC and started during his redshirt freshman season as a 245-pound nose guard, Owens used his quickness and deceptive strength to hold his own.

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He would become a four-year starter and two-time All-Pac-10 selection, earning his first appearance on that team by leading USC with 13 tackles for loss and eight sacks in 1988. The next season he played a pivotal role in the Trojans’ 1999 Rose Bowl bowl victory over Michigan by blocking a punt to set up a USC touchdown in the second quarter.

It was a couple decades before another All-Pac-10 player wore the jersey. That was Frostee Rucker, who topped the charts for USC with 14 tackles for loss in 2005.

Who wears it now?

Connor Murphy has been in possession of the No. 90 jersey since he arrived as a four-star prospect in 2016. His career hasn’t exactly gone as planned though.

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It started promising enough as he was voted USC’s Defensive Service Team Player of the Year for 2016. That first season he appeared in all 13 games, coming away with six tackles.

However, he couldn’t quite break through in 2017, despite injuries to both Porter Gustin and Christian Rector, with his only major action coming with three tackles against Oregon State.

Ahead of the 2018 season, Murphy made the move from outside linebacker to defensive line. Though he showed signs of taking to the interior, he battled a health concern which limited his ability to keep on the weight necessary to play there. He only appeared in four games while taking a redshirt.

Fortunately, those trials and tribulations may be due to payoff in 2019.

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This offseason USC has transitioned to a bigger defensive front, giving Murphy a more natural space to occupy up front. His versatility has become his greatest asset. Always possessing the skillset of an edge rusher, he makes sense at defensive end opposite Rector. Meanwhile, Clancy Pendergast’s desire to pit longer bodies, like Murphy at 6-foot-7, against offensive guards means he could also be utilized at defensive tackle throughout the year.

All-in-all, Murphy figures to play a much larger role in 2019. Whether he has what it takes to be the next All-Pac-12 player in No. 90 is up to him.

Stats to know: 90

  • Offensive tackle Keith Van Horne was USC’s 90th All-American, picking up the honor in 1980 along with Ronnie Lott and Roy Foster.
  • Before he was a Heisman-winning runnign back, Reggie Bush had 90 carries as a freshman in 2003, gaining 521 yards on the ground.
  • Running back Anthony Davis led USC with 90 points on 15 touchdowns in 1973. Wide receiver Chad Morton did the same in 1999.
  • Linebacker David Lewis led USC with 90 tackle in 1975.
  • Going into the 2007 Rose Bowl, Michigan running back Mike Hart had run for at least 90 yards in every game that season. USC held him to 47 yards on 17 carries in their 32-18 win.
  • USC estimates the The Spirit of Troy marches 90 miles a year while supporting the Trojans each season.

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