Murphy leads the Huskies with three interceptions through four spring practices with the No. 1 defense.
This hyped-up story about a much-hyped freshman needs to start with some important qualifiers:
Bryon Murphy has worked with Washington’s No. 1 defense for a mere four spring practices, only one of which was contested in full pads.
He hasn’t been asked yet to live tackle, he hasn’t lined up much against the Huskies’ best receiver, and he hasn’t yet faced the Huskies’ starting quarterback.
And, yet, even in just four spring practices, and even with star QB Jake Browning being limited, Murphy has provided ammunition to support his status as the highest-ranked recruit to ever sign with Washington coach Chris Petersen.
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“Be ready for ‘B-Murph’ to make some plays,” fellow cornerback Jordan Miller said. “Because one thing I say about Byron, man, is he loves to ball, he gets the ball, he makes plays on the ball. I feel like he’s a ball magnet.”
Murphy, a 5-foot-11, 177-pound cornerback from Scottsdale, Ariz., leads the team with three interceptions through four spring practices, and he’s broken up a handful of other passes. Those plays help support the assertion that UW co-defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake made when Murphy was still at Saguaro High School.
“Coming out of high school, I raved about it. I said he had the best hands I’ve ever seen out of high school, and I truly still believe that,” said Lake, the Huskies’ secondary coach. “His high school tape is really unbelievable, his ball skills. And it’s nice to see how, he’s playing more now with the first-team defense, and it’s coming true right now.”
Because of the presence of star corners Sidney Jones and Kevin King, Lake had the luxury of redshirting Murphy last fall.
“In a different year, if we didn’t have two potential first-round corners playing, he definitely would have played as a true freshman,” Lake said. “But it was very fortunate for him to be able to redshirt and learn from two talented guys and put on 8-10 pounds.”
Miller, a 6-1 junior, is the most veteran cornerback on the roster, and he’s holding down the No. 1 cornerback spot this spring. Murphy is already making a strong case for the other starting cornerback job, a competition that Lake expects to intensify in fall camp. By then, two more touted freshmen, Elijah Molden and Keith Taylor, will be on campus to compete with Murphy, Austin Joyner, Kentrell Love and Myles Bryant.
Washington led the nation with 33 takeaways last fall, and led the Pac-12 with 19 interceptions. Despite the departures of Jones, King and Budda Baker from the secondary, Lake said the mindset hasn’t changed.
“Our job is to score or get the ball back,” he said, “and when you have guys like (Murphy), that changes things.”
Murphy starred as a wide receiver in high school, too, posting 88 catches for 1,733 yards and 21 touchdowns as a senior. Rivals.com ranked him as the No. 40 overall recruit in the Class of 2016.
Murphy, as a freshman, has not been made available for media interviews, per team policy.
Miller says he and Murphy have grown close, and they often watch film together. Miller only added to the building hype about the budding freshman.
“He’s got the full package,” Miller said.