By Joe Perovich | KFAN.com
The ideal cornerback: barely a part of the telecast, severely influential in which team wins the game.
Minnesota junior cornerback Eric Murray fits the bill, and to have complete clarity of what he does on the field - you need to be at the game. While he's draped over the opposing opposing team's favorite target, the ball is filtered through a progression of reads that the quarterback may or may not be comfortable with. As a result, if your preferred manner of taking in a Gophers football game is the Big Ten Network or ESPN, you might forget at times Murray is on the field.
But that can only mean he's doing his job: Neutralize a wideout's normal output, and postpone expectations he had of eclipsing triple-digits in yards until next Saturday.
Two second-round picks hailing from this past May's NFL draft can vouch for Murray's unyielding brand of play.
Cody Latimer, Indiana, Drafted: 2nd Rnd, 56th by DEN
'Terrific' cannot justly describe how good the rangy, 6-foot-2 Latimer was in Big Ten home games last season.
... at Memorial Stadium (Indiana's home field) vs in-conference foes not named Minnesota: 146 yards/game, 9 receptions/game.
... at Memorial Stadium versus Minnesota: 55 yards and four receptions (one touchdown, but Murray was on the opposite side of the field during that specific play)
Allen Robinson, Penn State, Drafted: 2nd Rnd, 61st by JAX
Who averaged the third-most receiving yards in all of college football last season, and more than anyone else from the Big Ten, SEC, Big XII, and ACC?
Blake Bortles' (okay, Chad Henne's) new target in northeast Florida, WR Allen Robinson.
As a featured product in the offense of the offensive-minded (and current head coach of the Houston Texans) Bill O'Brien, Robinson followed up his 1,018 receiving yards in 2012 with 1,432 in 2013.
From Halloween 2012 on, Robinson only played in two games where he failed to averaged over 10 yards/catch.
TCF Bank Stadium served as the host site for one of them.
It's easy to see why Minnesota coaches have preached Murray warrants inclusion in any shortlist of elite, Big Ten defensive backs before he's ever taken the field as an upperclassman.
And despite logging 52 tackles and 10 pass breakups last season, it's easy to see why he's left off many of those lists.
Murray is rarely used as a zone defender, a role allowing more freedom to roam and jump a route on the basis of a calculated risk Gophers defensive backs coach Jay Sawvel utilizes him most frequently in man-to-man assignments, with plenty of press-man responsibilities.
It's a job that doesn't lay out the red carpet for glitzy interceptions and national publicity, but one Murray is very effective and comfortable in.
While he played mostly on special teams in 2012, Murray was a starter for the entirety of the Gophers 2013 season. His stifling play could only go unnoticed for so long, and by season's end, Murray was turning heads all throughout the Big Ten.
As last season came to a close, Murray was named honorable mention All-Big Ten by the coaches and the media -- despite having zero career interceptions. Not an easy feat. Fitting too, as Murray has never made it easy for opposing receivers.
Mere hours from the 2014 season's unveiling, here's your final reminder: keep an eye on Eric Murray going forward. A full transformation from under-the-radar to nationally rated is sooner than most of college football realizes.
Joe Perovich covers Minnesota Sports, namely Gophers and Timberwolves, for KFAN.com. Feel free to leave comments and questions regarding this post in the space provided below. For Gophers or Timberwolves updates and news, follow Joe on Twitter: @JoePerovich.