Coming into the 2020 college football season, BYU quarterback Zach Wilson wasn’t on anyone’s radar as a future first-round pick, but he had a tremendous season and wound up becoming the No. 2 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. When looking for a quarterback who could do the same thing in the 2021 season, it might be worth keeping an eye on Liberty’s Malik Willis.
Following last weekend’s draft, FOX Sports’ Bruce Feldman spoke to some people around college football about which signal caller could be the next Zach Wilson. Willis’ name came up quite a bit, and quarterback guru Quincy Avery says he’s never seen an arm quite like his.
“He has the strongest arm of anybody I have ever seen,” Avery said, per Feldman.
An anonymous former Group of Five defensive coordinator, who has faced Willis in his career, explained why it was so tough to stop the Liberty quarterback. Not only is he a threat to throw it over everyone’s head, but he can also be hard to slow down once his legs get churning as well. The coach even drew a direct comparison to Wilson himself.
“He has a cannon, makes smart decisions, knows when to run and throw it,” the anonymous defensive coordinator told Feldman. “Really tough to tackle to be honest. He was the best one I faced in my years (there), him and Zach Wilson.”
Coming out of high school as a three-star recruit and the 247Sports Composite’s No. 21 athlete in the 2017 signing class, Willis enrolled at Auburn. In two years with the Tigers, Willis attempted just 14 passes and transferred out of the program following the 2018 season.
Last fall was Willis’ first season starting for the Flames, and he played at a high level. In 2020, Willis completed 64.2% of his passes for 2,250 yards, 20 touchdowns, and six interceptions. He also showed off his dual-threat ability with 944 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns. Another season in Hugh Freeze’s offense could help him elevate his play even more.
In projecting the top 25 quarterbacks in the 2021 college football season, 247Sports’ Brad Crawford put Willis at No. 12. Crawford noted that Willis and a couple other quarterbacks still have some work to do in order to show NFL teams that they have what it takes to play at the next level.
“Malik Willis, an Auburn transfer, managed 34 total touchdowns and over 3,000 yards of total offense as Hugh Freeze’s best player with the Flames,” Crawford wrote. “Which of these guys will be the best NFL prospect? There’s a lot of football to be played before projecting that.”
Willis may not get as much attention as other quarterbacks like North Carolina’s Sam Howell, Oklahoma’s Spencer Rattler, or Miami’s D’Eriq King, but he will still be a player worth paying attention to this fall.