Texas quarterback Quinn Ewers will be sidelined for some time after a shoulder injury to his throwing arm. Maalik Murphy is expected to start, however, coach Steve Sarkisian announced that Arch Manning will be splitting reps this week in practice. Texas is an 18-point favorite at home against BYU. What can we expect to see from the Longhorns?
Who is Maalik Murphy?
Murphy is a redshirt freshman who was a four-star recruit from the 2022 class. A 6-foot-5 and 240-pound pro-style quarterback, Murphy hasn't seen many meaningful reps as he completed 1-of-2 passes after replacing Ewers late against Houston. We did get a glimpse of Murphy’s abilities in the spring game, when he went 9-of-13 passing for 165 yards, including a deep touchdown pass to five-star receiver Johntay Cook II. One of his incompletions was another perfect bomb that was dropped.
Based on the small sample size, Texas has confidence that the offense won’t be limited through the air. With a week of reps, the focus should be on getting Murphy comfortable leading the offense. The question with a new quarterback is not whether he can fit into an offense, but whether he is ready for the spotlight. That’s where the talent around Murphy comes into play.
Why Jonathon Brooks is the safety net
Jonathon Brooks is averaging an explosive run once every 6.5 attempts. Brooks is at his best working in space with solid receiving ability. Although he doesn't have elite breakaway speed, he is speedy enough to gain big chunks when finding an opening. Brooks is ninth in the nation in yards after contact and top 20 in yards after contact per attempt and in rushing plays of 15 yards or more.
With a new quarterback getting his first start, the game plan should be to run the ball to eliminate the pressure on Murphy. Brooks has five games this season with at least 99 yards rushing, including a 218-yard breakout against Kansas. Brooks now has another opportunity.
Can BYU stop the run?
BYU is 70th in rush defense, according to Pro Football Focus, and ranks 89th in the FBS in rushing yards allowed and bottom 30 in opponent yards per carry.
In two road games, BYU allowed 221 yards to Kansas, giving up an average of 6.5 yards per rush to Devin Neal and Daniel Hishaw. The Cougars allowed 242 rushing yards to Cincinnati, including 94 to quarterback Emory Jones. Right now, Texas is averaging 38 carries per game. The workload placed on Brooks can help Murphy live in more manageable situations.
If the Texas defense can apply pressure on BYU QB Kedon Slovis, create some short-field opportunities, hand the ball to Brooks and perhaps open the playbook for Murphy, Texas should roll and get the job done. Perhaps we even see what Murphy is truly capable of.