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Senior Bowl
Senior Bowl

Malik Willis Showing His Growth At Senior Bowl

  • Crissy Froyd
  • February 3, 2022
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Liberty quarterback Malik Willis was one of the hottest quarterbacks ahead of the season and quickly became a polarizing prospect. Some had concerns about his accuracy and ball placement throughout the season, while others were blown away by his arm strength and Houdini-like mobility. “Everybody’s got different opinions and everyone is entitled to have one,” Willis said. “Some people think I suck and some people think I’m the best in the world. That doesn’t matter, I’m just trying to get better. I’m a winner. I’m a competitor. I’m a hard worker. I feel like all three of those things are going to help me in the long run.” Willis says he experienced growth both on and off the field at Liberty. “(This past season) I grew maturity-wise… I don’t want to say that I learned how to lose but I did learn how to lose,” Willis said. “I hate losing, so it took a lot out of me, but now I understand that you can’t win every time, but you can dang sure try. Think about what it takes preparation-wise, but you can’t win every time. That’s how this game goes.” After finishing out his final season at Liberty with a completion percentage of 61.1% with 2,857 passing yards, 27 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions, he has a chance to continue raising his draft stock and eliminate some of the question marks this week at the Senior Bowl. He started doing just that on Wednesday, bouncing back from a shaky first day in which he had some impressive throws but also had some of the worst among all quarterbacks on the day. The Liberty Flames signal-caller had success with throws at different levels of the field, looking accurate, more comfortable and confident, and in control of the offense even with off and on rain that affected the conditions and made things more difficult for the quarterbacks in every aspect. One of the things Willis was knocked for by several was his lack of touch on throws, something that looks improved early on in the week. Sean McEvoy, Willis’ quarterback trainer, says Willis has gotten better in understanding what types of situations call for different types of throws. “I think it’s part of the development process and getting the reps at it and understanding what kind of trajectory he needs on different plays based on the route concepts,” McEvoy said. “I think early on in his career, he got some coaching on the deep ball to add more air under it to give receivers more time to get under it… he’s got a unique amount of arm strength that allows him to be more aggressive on the deep ball and I think sometimes he’s at his best when he does keep a lower trajectory on it and drive it.” Willis himself points to footwork as one of the most notable things he’s gotten more solid at. “In this pre-draft process, I’ve been focused on showing some things I wasn’t able to show during the season that I can do,” Willis said. “Just honing in on those things so whenever I get the opportunity these next few months to put it in front of somebody. I’ve definitely fine-tuned the footwork. I’m learning a whole new set of footwork from under center than what I learned in college where I was mostly in the gun. Just getting snaps and getting out of there so I don’t get stepped on by one of these linemen.” Like many of the other quarterbacks performing in Mobile, Willis is operating a different offense than he’s used to, but it’s obvious by watching him in action that he’s taking the coaching well and learning quickly. “At the end of the day, it’s just football so I’ve just been focusing on the terminology and verbiage—that’s been the main thing,” Willis said. “Making sure I speak clearly and thoroughly so everyone understands what they’re supposed to do. I used to just call my own protection and I might say the play to the running back but now I’m saying the play to everybody. At Liberty, I tell the O-line and the running back the play and call my own protection.” Willis already has made a strong case for himself as the most athletically gifted quarterback in this class and one of the best overall heading into the 2022 NFL Draft, and it will only become more so if he keeps up the level of Wednesday’s performance throughout the rest of the Senior Bowl and offseason events. For several NFL teams in the modern era, so long as he can stay consistent as a passer, Willis broadens an offense in a host of ways. “He’s uniquely talented,” McEvoy said. “He’s got the strong arm, he can make plays from the pocket and I think you’re seeing that this week. He clearly has a different dimension of athleticism that nobody else can match, so that gives offense and play-callers the ability to use him in different ways. Any team that gets him is going to have a chance to expand their offense…  When you look at what the offense was they ran in the last couple years at Liberty, they were a deep strike, play action, try to go down the field team. They didn’t do much at all in the screen game. You look at some other offenses that do a lot of quick stuff in the flat and make playmakers make plays. In reality, Malik was the playmaker at Liberty.”

Written By

Crissy Froyd