A team strength only got stronger during the summer when Texas Longhorns defensive tackle Byron Murphy II arrived on campus to provide increased depth and another pass-rushing option for position coach Bo Davis.
Murphy quickly made an impression on his teammates before translating his potential into production in preseason camp as he emerges as a player who will demand playing time this fall despite the surplus of options for Davis.
At Big 12 Media Days in July, the buzz around Murphy started when junior nose tackle Keondre Coburn fielded a question about him.
“Man, I was just telling somebody about him,” Coburn said. “Oh, he really reminded me of Aaron Donald in a way, probably not the fastest like Aaron Donald, but that dude right there is by far the strongest person, just like he ate a dog. He’s like a real pit bull. That’s the comparison to a human pit bull right there. He’s strong and he wants to work — he comes every day working hard.”
Murphy continued to impress Coburn into preseason camp, with the big Texas nose tackle speculating that the 6’1, 297-pounder could become one of the best defensive tackles to play for the Longhorns.
Already one of the best pass rushers in the defensive line room, Murphy won so many one-on-one reps in the early portion of preseason camp that Coburn claimed he hadn’t lost any at all.
But Coburn isn’t the only player to mention Murphy — in interviews with Orangebloods last week, redshirt freshman center Jake Majors and senior linebacker DeMarvion Overshown both praised Murphy for his efforts in practice. Overshown called Murphy “a stud” and predicted big things this year for the former Baylor commit.
Murphy’s recruitment moved quickly last fall — a summer pledge to the Bears. he decommitted from Baylor and committed to Texas on the same day that he received his offer from the Longhorns in November.
A strong senior season helped convince the former Texas staff to extend that offer. At one time a linebacker who outgrew the position, Murphy started playing on DeSoto’s varsity as a sophomore before taking a big leap as a junior, recording 98 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, and 5.5 sacks while forcing four fumbles. As a senior, Murphy’s overall tackles dropped to 78, but he was even more disruptive, notching 22 tacklers for loss and 14 sacks.
Playing next to five-star prospect Shemar Turner, Murphy’s production never turned into the lofty recruiting rankings afforded to Turner, as Murphy finished the cycle as a consensus three-star prospect ranked as the No. 400 player nationally and the No. 50 defensive lineman, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings.
But as BON’s Daniel Seahorn wrote at the time of Murphy’s signing in December, Murphy’s film was impressive enough that the major limiting factor is his height. Listed at 6’1, Murphy is on the short side for a defensive tackle, but it might actually be an advantage for him — he has the mass and strength necessary to hold up at the point of attack, even against double teams, because it’s difficult for offensive linemen to get under Murphy’s pads.
With a stocky build, Murphy has plenty of power through his upper body and lower body, much like former Texas standout Roy Miller, and enough athleticism to combine with a strong motor and allow Murphy to make plays on the perimeter.
The presence of Coburn and junior T’Vondre Sweat means that Horns have two extremely capable options at nose tackle already, but Murphy is clearly pushing them for playing time and should get some early opportunities to prove why his teammates are so bullish on his future.