With redshirt sophomore starting quarterback Quinn Ewers “week to week” what a reported Grade 2 AC joint sprain, Texas Longhorns head coach Steve Sarkisian confirmed on Thursday that redshirt freshman Maalik Murphy will make his first career start on Saturday against the BYU Cougars at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.
On Monday, Sarkisian left open the possibility that freshman Arch Manning could earn the starting role with strong practices on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Instead, the 6’5, 238-pound Murphy elevated his play throughout the week.
“I thought they both had good weeks of preparation. I said a couple of weeks ago that Arch arguably had his best practice since he’s been here. I would say today was Maalik’s best practice since he’s been here and that’s a good thing for us that as the week’s gone on, his game has elevated, his understanding of the game plan has elevated, his comfort level, managing all the things we do with the line of scrimmage has elevated, and I think his confidence is elevated because of it And he had a really good practice today,” said Sarkisian.
A former consensus four-star prospect out of Inglewood (Calif.) Junipero Serra in the 2022 recruiting class, Murphy has appeared in four games this season, completing 4-of-8 passes for 47 yards. After Ewers was injured and left last Saturday’s narrow win over Houston in the third quarter, Murphy went 1-of-2 passing for seven yards as Sarkisian leaned on the ground game for the fourth-quarter, go-ahead touchdown.
Notoriously aggressive as a play caller, Sarkisian is confident in the strong-armed Murphy’s ability to run his system.
“I try to recruit players to come here that fit our system,” said Sarkisian. “ I think for us systematically, I want to run our plays and our schemes of exactly who we are and if I didn’t think those players were capable of doing that at any position, most notably quarterback, then they might not be the right fit for what we do.”
Two key elements are already in place for Murphy, in Sarkisian’s estimation — he prepared well and he has strong rapport with his teammates, hardly a surprise since Murphy is known for his dynamic personality. But the rest of the Texas offense also has an extremely important role to play.
“We need to play well around him. Naturally for anybody, there’s going to be some excitement in his bones and in his veins to want to go play good. Let’s make sure we play well around him,” said Sarkisian.
There’s also still a chance that Manning could make his first appearance for Texas, whether Murphy struggles or performs well.
“Like I said, Maalik is going to start the game and go play in this game. I haven’t made a decision if I want to get Arch in there just to get him in there and or not. We have discussed that some because I do think there’s some valuable experience for him in that,” said Sarkisian. “But I have to make sure that that’s in the best interest of the team and I have to make sure that the team comes first in everything that we do, but I do I do see the value in something like that. II just am not ready to make that call yet.”