How Texas transfer quarterback Maalik Murphy is adjusting to playing for Duke football

For anyone who thinks players take the easy way out by transferring, perhaps avoiding competition for playing time, Maalik Murphy has a story to share.

“It’s had its ups and downs,” Murphy, a sophomore quarterback who left Texas in December to enroll at Duke this semester. “It’s not an easy process at all coming from one type of system and transferring over to another. It’s just the way you attack it. Like how bad do you want it? That’s what I say to myself.”

Duke sought an experienced quarterback for this season’s team after Riley Leonard entered his name in the transfer portal following coach Mike Elko’s decision to leave Duke for Texas A&M last November.

Shortly after Manny Diaz was hired as Elko’s replacement, the 6-5, 235-pound Murphy picked Duke as his new school after playing in seven games for Texas last season.

Having just completed spring practices with his new teammates, Murphy said he learned quickly that self-motivation is key to not get overwhelmed with the process.

“Are you gonna sit around and not go over the playbook or you’re not going to bug the coach to figure out how he likes certain things in the offense?” Murphy said. “That’s all up to you as a quarterback. As a quarterback that wants to be great myself, I’m doing all those things with, you know, having to do schoolwork and having to get adjusted to where I live and having to get adjusted to everything else, being in a new city in the state. So it’s just how bad you want it.”

With Murphy starting two games for the Longhorns last season — leading them to wins against Brigham Young and Kansas State — Duke has three quarterbacks on its roster with starting experience. Sophomore Grayson Loftis started the Blue Devils’ final five games, including the 17-10 Birmingham Bowl win over Troy. Sophomore Henry Belin, who is still hampered by an upper-body injury, started one game.

Murphy and Loftis split repetitions with the first-team offense during spring practices, including last Saturday night’s Blue-White spring game at Wallace Wade Stadium. Diaz contends the decision about a starter won’t be made until practice resumes in August.

“I think you saw today both guys can do it, both guys can distribute the ball,” Diaz said last Saturday night. “We got a lot of work on our passing game and I think both guys have a really good mastery.”

Duke went 3-2 in Loftis’ starts, with one of the losses coming in double-overtime at North Carolina. That night, as a freshman, Loftis went throw for throw with UNC’s Drake Maye, who’ll be a first-round pick in this week’s NFL Draft, before the Tar Heels won, 47-45.

For the season, Loftis completed 55.8% of his throws for 1,006 yards with eight touchdowns and four interceptions.

Murphy, though, is an intriguing candidate for the starting job.

At Texas, he completed 56.3% of his passes in seven games with two starts. Murphy threw for 477 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions.

Already at Duke, he’s shown he has a big, powerful arm. It’s been on display on deep passes as well as when he zips the ball in tight windows to beat defenders.

Though Murphy completed a touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Jordan Moore, he wasn’t happy with misfiring on a handful of other throws.

“It’s just a lot of work to do,” Murphy said. “Just like (Saturday), I missed some throws, all assignments weren’t done the way to our standard. I feel like there’s definitely a lot of work to do and we got a lot of time to work on it. So I’m excited.”

Murphy and Moore have worked to strengthen their bond, aiming for that chemistry to pay off when the season starts.

“We’ve put in a countless amount of work,” Murphy said. “Me and JoMo will come up here at probably 8 o’clock at night after classes, when we could earlier on in the spring, just trying to get stuff down and work on the new parts of our offense that neither of us were familiar with. Just so we wouldn’t come out here and look all tacky.”

Moore led Duke with 62 pass receptions for 835 yards and eight touchdowns last season, so his ability to gel with Murphy could lead to big things for the Blue Devils offense.

With spring practice done, it’s time for that extra work to begin. NCAA rules prohibit coaches from working with the players again until practices resume in August. The players organize their own non-contact workouts, though.

So it’s back to the rhetorical question — “How bad do you want it?” — that Murphy offered.

From his words, he’ll be putting in all the work he can to be ready for this season at Duke.