Last week, many of the top quarterbacks in the country made their way to the Los Angeles area to compete in the Elite 11, including Texas Longhorns quarterback commit Maalik Murphy.
The 6’4.5, 225-pounder from Gardena has been pledged to new head coach Steve Sarkisian and his staff since mid-February, but with Murphy’s spring high school football season serving as his first opportunity to start at that level, every chance to evaluate Murphy takes on heightened importance.
So it was heartening to see that Murphy perform well at the event, earning a spot in the Elite 11 and finishing as one of the top performers on the first and third days, according to SI All-Americans.
Murphy’s performance fell in line with typical evaluations of the nation’s No. 8 pro-style quarterback — SI All-Americans described his “untapped potential” while praising his physical attributes:
The most impressive physical specimen on site, Murphy displayed one of the strongest arms on the group and surprisingly solid accuracy to pair over the week, also gelling with his receivers and making well-timed tosses.
When Murphy struggled during the 7-on-7 portion of the event, Bruce Feldman was impressed with his maturity and willingness to be coached — “He came across as sincere and accountable, focused on trying to get better,” Feldman wrote for The Athletic.
The fit for Murphy at Texas is clear — Sarkisian is known as one of the best quarterback coaches in the country and Murphy is bursting with upside. With Casey Thompson and Hudson Card already on campus and competing for the starting job to replace Sam Ehlinger, Murphy shouldn’t have to contribute early, allowing him to time to get the reps he sorely needs right now before he has to contribute.
But an interesting thing also happened at the event as Austin Westlake product and Clemson commit Cade Klubnik won the Elite 11 MVP as the top performer — the narrative shifted.
When the nation’s No. 1 quarterback, Southlake Carroll’s Quinn Ewers, committed and then decommitted last fall, his exit from the 2022 Texas recruiting class marked a death knell for Tom Herman’s tenure. Even after Ewers committed to Ohio State shortly thereafter, there was speculation about whether Sarkisian’s hire might allow the home-state school back in the mix. Those murmurs continued even after Murphy committed, though they have faded in recent weeks.
What Ewers does in Columbus will always be tied back to Herman’s failure to keep him in the class, but now there’s unquestionably another dimension — what Klubnik does at Clemson.
Ultimately, this year’s Elite 11 competition won’t have much to do with how any of the three quarterbacks perform in college, but in the short term, Klubnik’s MVP turn in California showcased his talent and some of the polish that Murphy currently lacks.
Klubnik is rated slightly above Murphy in the rankings and while he doesn’t possess the size or easy arm strength of the Texas commit, he does have much more experience winning at the highest levels of high school football and a perception from Elite 11 coaches that he has an extremely high floor. His accuracy and touch stood out to those in attendance even when compared to the top quarterbacks in the country.
Texas managed to land Klubnik’s teammate, offensive lineman Connor Robertson, and Clemson has faded a bit for speedy wide receiver Brenen Thompson, so the recruiting implications of taking Murphy over Klubnik haven’t played out in a negative way.
But Klubnik’s success at Elite 11 put into perspective just how good he is right now and the extent to which Sarkisian will have to develop Murphy’s prodigious talent to ensure the decision to take Murphy rather than continuing to pursue Klubnik is the correct choice with the value of hindsight that always defines these program-changing evaluations.
While it’s going to take years for the Murphy-Ewers-Klubnik narrative to play out, the trajectory of Sarkisian’s tenure in Austin will depend to a significant extent on getting this right. Especially if Murphy doesn’t reach his potential and Klubnik is as consistently excellent as he was at Elite 11.