Cole Murphy, a kicker, has been quickly proving his worth to the Michigan Panthers. Early in the season Jeff Fisher and company believed their best chance for success was to draft a punter and have him operate as the kicker as well. The Panthers bet on Murphy has paid off more than they counted for, begging the question: can he kick in the NFL?
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Cole Murphy Converting Key Kicks for USFL Michigan Panthers
USFL Draft Strategy
Drafting a player operable as both a punter and kicker was a relatively common occurrence during the initial USFL Draft. This was due to the smaller rosters, forcing coaches to save roster spots however they could. One of the ways many teams thought they could save roster spots was to bring in dual-threat specialists.
Two of these men battled only a couple of weeks ago when Philadelphia and Michigan played. Michigan Punter Michael Carrizosa would ultimately miss a 21-yard game-winning field goal attempt. While Matt Mengel of the stars scored 14 points and collected Special Teams Player of the Week. However, before the next game, their respective teams released both dual-threat specialists.
Who is Cole Murphy?
The man brought in to shore up the kicking game for the Michigan Panthers was none other than Cole Murphy. Arizona Cardinals fans might remember Murphy from his cup of coffee with the team back in 2019. Despite not sticking with the NFL, recently Murphy has found tremendous success with the USFL.
Cole Murphy attended university at Syracuse. He however was not the most accurate of kickers during his four-year career. He graduated with a 71% conversion rate on field goals with four kicks blocked over his final three seasons.
However, Murphy did display an ability to hit long kicks during his college career. He was also the primary kick-off specialist for three of his four seasons, showcasing his ability to handle the double duty. His best season was ironically his freshman year when he missed just three kicks all season long.
His best game would not come until 2016 in week one his team would face Colgate. During this game, Murphy was four of four on field goals, and three of three on extra-point attempts while blasting eight kickoffs for 503 yards.
After college, it took a little while for Murphy to gain some traction in the professional world. Despite graduating in 2017, he went undrafted and did not get signed as an UDFA. He would sign with the San Diego Fleet of the Alliance of American Football in 2019. In this Spring League, there were no point after attempts, or kicks-offs leaving him to focus strictly on field goals.
Ironically if not for the USFL, Cole Murphy might have looked to the XFL in 2023 for his next job. He crossed paths with former tight ends coach Anthony Becht who was tabbed to be a first-time head coach for the XFL.
As mentioned above, his first NFL opportunity came with the Arizona Cardinals nearly two years removed from graduation. This chance was fairly short-lived for Murphy, as Arizona released him before he played a game.
Absence Makes the…Leg Grow Stronger?
It was quite a while before Murphy was given another opportunity to prove himself; in fact, it was not until nearly five years after his last game in college that he got to step foot on the field in a game situation.
Jeff Fisher and the Michigan Panthers knew they needed to improve at kicker following the missed game-winning kick by Carrizosa. He just was not sure where to look, until Cole Murphy’s name came up. Fisher is likely extremely glad it did too.
Since signing Cole Murphy the Panther special teams unit has seen a complete turnaround. Murphy has missed just one kick in three weeks so far. Murphy has landed seven of eight field goal attempts, and five of five extra points. On top of thatm in just his second week with the Panthers, he collected Special Teams player of the week honors.
Well…spoiler alert….he won it again following his performance in the Week 7 overtime match-up with the New Orleans Breakers. Murphy had a huge game for the Panthers once again showcasing his big leg. Coming into the weekend Murphy hadn’t missed a kick yet.
Week 7 Performance
However coming out of his performance in week 7, no one will be talking about the kick he missed thanks to this highlight:
Cole Murphy just hit a 60-yard field goal, and it looks like it could have been good from even a few yards longer. That was not all, Murphy went four of five on field goals, and one of one on extra points. He accounts for 13 of the 27 points scored by the Michigan Panthers in this game. Through three games he has accounted for 26 points. During that stretch the Panthers as a whole have scored 64 points. No stat shows his importance to Michigan then that.