Byron Murphy and N’Keal Harry have been friends since high school.
As sophomores, they were on the same football team. But even though they both transferred to separate schools in Arizona to finish out their high school careers, they’ve never lined up against each other.
But not for lack of trying.
“We wanted to,” Murphy said. “We were trying to set up scrimmages and everything.”
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On Saturday, Murphy will finally get the chance to play against his close friend. It’s an opportunity he’s been waiting for, particularly after missing last year’s matchup while recovering from an injury. He watched from the sidelines as the Sun Devils won, 13-7.
“I say he’s one of the biggest receivers in the Pac-12,” Murphy said, “and (has) some of the best hands in the Pac-12.”
247Sports.com considered Harry and Murphy the No. 1 and No. 2 prospects, respectively, in the state of Arizona in 2016. Now, the two are among the top players in the Pac-12. They’ve also maintained their friendship.
Harry (6-4, 213) led the Pac-12 in yards per game last season (86.8 ypg). He finished the year with 1,142 yards and eight touchdowns on 82 receptions. So far this season, he’s caught 21 passes for 315 yards and four touchdowns.
In the Sun Devils’ victory over UW last season, Harry caught a team-high nine passes for 79 yards.
“He’s a big body,” said Husky cornerback Jordan Miller. “He has probably the best hands I’ve seen. He goes up there and gets it and he’s physical. He’s going to be a nice matchup for our guys.”
Petersen recruited Harry and Arizona State running back Chase Lucas, also a friend of Murphy’s, when they were coming out of high school. UW would’ve loved to have them all, he said, calling Harry “phenomenal.”
“He’s really good,” Petersen said. “He’s got the size to go with the strength and the speed. He’s one of those guys that’s going to make his plays and you just hope to slow him down a little bit.”
But as Petersen pointed out, the Sun Devils also have other receiving weapons.
Arizona State has four players, including Harry, that have passed 100 receiving yards this season. Wide receivers Frank Darby and Kyle Williams have 171 yards and 159 yards, respectively. Running back Eno Benjamin, who leads the Sun Devils on the ground, has also caught 15 passes for 113 yards.
“You can’t just say we’re going to take him out of the game and we’re good because you’re not,” Petersen said. “That’s a tough adjustment, especially when you couple that with a good thrower.”
When Murphy takes the field against Harry on Saturday, Petersen just hopes he can look at the matchup like any other game.
“You know sometimes those things can get bigger than they should be,” Petersen said.
“I think it’s always something that we’re aware of. But I do think that Byron is a really smart and competitive. … I think he’ll be right where he needs to be.”