QB Malik Willis, Liberty

6’1” – 225 lbs.

Background:

Originally attended Auburn, playing sparingly behind Jarrett Stidham. Transferred to Liberty in 2019, sitting out the season, then took over the starting role the following year. Threw for 2,250 yards (64.2%, 8.5 YPA), 20 touchdowns, and six interceptions, adding 141-944-14 (6.7) on the ground and finishing with a 9-1 record as the starter, then threw for 2,857 yards (61.1%, 8.4 YPA), 27 touchdowns, and twelve interceptions this past year, rushing 197-878-13 (4.5) as Liberty went 8-5.

Positives:

Was a highly productive dual threat over the past two seasons in an offense which featured a lot of throws out to the sidelines. No heel click on his footwork when dropping back from the shotgun. Light on his feet in the pocket. Shows the ability to work through looks and find his checkdown. Nice compact three-quarters throwing motion with good follow through. Has some of the most arm talent in this year’s class; ball seems to jump out of his hand, with plenty of velocity to get throws out to the boundary or into tight windows. Throws arrive on time on curls/comebacks. Able to escape from the first rusher when he sees pressure; sick jukes in close quarters. Can throw while rolling out to either side, resetting his feet when he has time. Explosive athlete who finds creases on read-options and draws, working through congestion to pick up available yardage. Clearly a tough and powerful runner with great contact balance; can break tackles, not just make defenders miss.

Negatives:

Offense wasn’t the most pro-style; RPO-based with an emphasis on horizontal spacing. Has a thick build but is on the small side for a pro quarterback. Was going to his second look at times but it often seemed like a designed element of the play (i.e. pump short and take a shot downfield) instead of an actual progression; more often took off when his primary read was covered. Relies on his arm talent at times to muscle throws instead of making sure he’s aligned and transferring weight to generate velocity, attempting passes off of his back foot. Some inefficient ball placement; most throws are catchable but some force adjustments which limit yards after the catch. Could take something off of his shorter throws and calibrate the touch more appropriately. Takes some questionable chances into tight coverage. Got sacked a ton of times this past year; drops his eyes and holds onto the ball against pressure. Flees the pocket prematurely instead of using pocket movement to buy time and find receivers. Takes a ton of punishment, which may lead to injuries over time. Needs to know when to give up on a play and throw passes away.

Summary:

May have the highest highs and lowest lows of a quarterback in this year’s class; clearly an exceptionally talented dual-threat with incredible athleticism and arm talent, but who seemed to develop a lot of bad habits playing behind an offensive line that seemed like it was perpetually crumbling; clearly didn’t trust his blocking, leading him to flee the pocket early, attempt off-platform and back-foot throws, and take chances into tight coverage. Will also have to adapt to a leap in the level of competition he’s playing and a pro offense which will be significantly more complex than what he was running in college. Where he ends up going relative to the other quarterbacks in the class will depend on teams’ risk tolerance.

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