As spring practice gives way to the long offseason, the Texas Longhorns took the field for the annual Orange-White Game on Saturday and gave fans their first look at what will make up the 2023 team. Things started slow for the offense but picked up quickly, and a few Longhorns gave the fans a show at Darrell K Royal — Texas Memorial Stadium.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Maalik Murphy
While much of the early chatter was about seeing the new-look Quinn Ewers and Arch Manning’s first stint in DKR, another quarterback stole the show.
After struggling with a high school injury that kept him out of action last season, Maalik Murphy showed off why he was one of the top quarterbacs in the 2022 recruiting class. Murphy showed off his much-discussed arm strength early and often, finishing the day 9-of-13 passing for 165 yards and a touchdown. It looked like he would be denied the touchdown after a beautiful bomb to freshman wide receiver DeAndre Moore hit the turf, but on the next play, he went back to the same spot and connected with freshman wide receiver Johntay Cook for a 79-yard score to essentially cap off his day.
While there was chatter early in the offseason that Manning may end up as QB2 on the depth chart, Murphy made a strong case for the backup role on Saturday.
Junior wide receiver AD Mitchell
The Longhorns used the transfer portal in the offseason to shore up the wide receiver room, snagging one of the top receivers in the portal from the national champion Georgia Bulldogs. AD Mitchell showed early and often why he built a reputation as a playmaker in Athens before making the move to Austin.
After early drops plagued the wide receivers, Mitchell was on the receiving end of back-to-back receptions that helped fans relax and seemingly helped the rest of the receivers find their center as well. While his one-handed, acrobatic touchdown catch is going to make the highlight reels, his consistency truly stands out. After a year where Texas saw drops prove costly in key moments, having someone who can make both the easy and the tough catches should give fans some relief.
Sophomore running backs Savion Red and Jaydon Blue
One of the storylines that will continue to circle around Texas is the need to replace both Bijan Robinson and Roschon Johnson, it became clear that the running back room is in good shape.
The earliest time you felt your eyes drawn to Savion Red, who moved from receiver to running back this offseason, was a fourth-down carry on which he found no space on the outside, reversed field, and managed to get close enough for the coaches to call it a first down. Red also showed off his hands out of the backfield, and finished the day as the team’s second-leading rusher, averaging five yards per carry.
Red would have led the rushers had it not been for a strong showing, and a highlight reel carry from classmate Jaydon Blue, who finished the day with 52 yards and a touchdown. Most of his yardage came on one carry, in which he found a crease on the right side — thanks to the efforts of Christian Jones and Ja’Tavion Sanders — then showed off the speed and elusiveness that at one time made him RB1 in the 2022 recruiting cycle.
Freshman cornerback Malik Muhammad
Texas managed to beat out Alabama and Texas A&M for the services of the former South Oak Cliff Golden Bear and you could tell early why he was coveted.
Muhammad made the list of standouts because of the simple fact that he didn’t stand out while running with members of the first-team defense. Murphy has only been on campus since December but looked like he fit right in with the upperclassmen he was lining up with and against. He looks every bit of 6’0 and 177 pounds, giving Texas a physical presence at the cornerback position, even if he doesn't end up with the starting group next year. Texas having the luxury of “getting to” play a young player at a key position, especially one that looks like they have Sunday upside, is a good feeling.
Freshman linebacker Anthony Hill
It may be controversial to say that landing Anthony Hill was as big of a recruiting win for the defense as landing Arch Manning was for the offense, but we saw why Anthony Hill may end up as a starter by the end of the 2023 season.
The five-star talent was on display on numerous occasions, especially when called upon as a pass rusher. His credited sack on the day came at the expense of Red, who threw a bad block, allowing Hill to speed right by him as a blitzing inside linebacker. The Longhorns are in need of answers at linebacker with DeMarvion Overshown heading to the NFL, but Hill seems to be on an accelerated path to competence thanks to his natural athleticism and instinct.
He may start the season with a simplified set of responsibilities, but it’s likely that linebackers coach Jeff Choate has a clear plan for developing the elite talent and getting him on the field as much as possible.