Friday, May 9, 2014
Getting to know Malik Jefferson
By Damon Sayles
Throughout this recruiting cycle, RecruitingNation will profile a number of ESPN 300 prospects in the 2015 class, including an inside look at the prospect, his recruitment, a scouting report and what college program could benefit when he ultimately makes his decision.
MESQUITE, Texas -- ESPN 300 linebacker Malik Jefferson doesn’t intend to, but with every play he makes on the football field -- every hit, every sack, every forced fumble -- he further divides old rivals.
Texas A&M fans are confident that he’ll play for them in 2015. Texas fans are equally confident he’ll wear burnt orange as a college freshman.
And then there are the schools considered to be on the outskirts -- if that's a place in Jefferson's wide-open process. There are several in-state and out-of-state powers that also would be considered great fits for the nation’s No. 4 outside linebacker.
ESPN 300 LB Malik Jefferson's combination of strength and speed has made him a highly coveted prospect.
It’s a problem that tens of thousands of high school football players would love to have. How does Jefferson trim a list of more than 20 quality offers? And if the race truly is between Texas and Texas A&M, what separates the two in Jefferson's mind?
“It’s been tough, I can definitely say that,” Jefferson said. “But I’m blessed to be in the position I’m in. I have an idea of where I want to go, but I’m not going to make that public yet. I just thank God for where I’m at.”
At 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, Jefferson is everything a college program wants in an outside linebacker. He's physically imposing. His bench press of nearly 400 pounds clearly shows his strength. His consistent 4.5-second 40-yard dash times force quarterbacks to make decisions a little quicker than expected.
Ranked No. 38 in the ESPN 300, Jefferson has in-state offers from Texas, Texas A&M, Baylor, Texas Tech and TCU. He also has intriguing out-of-state offers from Oklahoma, Alabama, Auburn and national champion Florida State.
The winning school will get a player who, in two varsity seasons, has accounted for 198 tackles and 21 sacks. Jefferson had 93 tackles and 14 sacks as a junior -- productive numbers considering he played a large amount of the season with ligament damage from an injured thumb.
Jefferson wants to announce a top 10 soon, but cutting his list to a final 10 has been one of the toughest tasks in his recruiting.
“It’s been nearly impossible. Once I like a school, another one has to go in [the top 10],” Jefferson said. “It’s been hard, but I think at the end of the day, my decision will be one where it’s a place I’ve always wanted to go.
“I know what I want; I want a place that will take care of me after college. I’m looking at the alumni situation and the education. You can only play football for so long. My dad and I probably have been stressing that more than anything.”
Having a life outside of football will be a part of his decision-making process, as well. When Jefferson isn’t on the football field or in the classroom, he is very active within his church. Jefferson has been a part of a Christian miming group at Bullock Chapel Christian Methodist Episcopal Church in Dallas since he was a youth.
“We’re called the Silent Worshippers,” Jefferson said. “So much is taken for granted, and I like the fact that I can express myself through miming and then go on the football field.”
“That’s just as important to me as football,” Jefferson said of miming.
Jefferson hopes to have his college plans finalized soon. He said Nov. 15 is a potential decision day, as it is his birthday. Jefferson said the decision then would be an early graduation present to himself.
It also will serve a nice present for one lucky football program.
About his recruiting: Jefferson has visited Texas A&M, Texas, TCU, Texas Tech and Baylor this spring. He’s hoping to visit Oklahoma sometime this spring. Out-of-state schools Kentucky, Auburn and Georgia are the latest to offer. All three play in the SEC, a conference that Jefferson respects. Look for Jefferson to take his time with the process and weigh all options.
Scouting profile: Great pressure linebacker. Excels as a blitzer, effectively timing his jump off the snap, and is violent with his hands to keeps blockers off his body. Can bend and rip and utilize his speed off the edge, or turn speed to power in a bull rush. Is a highly aggressive, fast-pursuing linebacker prospect who can make disruptive plays versus the run and pass. Can be somewhat straight-lined, which limits his range in space. -- Tom Luginbill
Handicapping the race: Jefferson is one of those recruits where when he says every school is in the race, it’s a legit statement. He doesn’t tip his hand, but one thing’s for sure: He loves his family and loves having them comes to his games. Texas, Texas A&M and Baylor are three schools that have proximity as an advantage, but don’t be surprised if Jefferson chooses to venture out and attend an out-of state school.