First-Year Profile: Malaki Starks
Georgia signed the nation’s No. 3 overall class in the 2022 recruiting cycle, per 247Sports. The Bulldogs inked 30 signees. So, over the next month, Dawg-Watch.com will be looking at Georgia’s incoming freshmen in a revamped series called “First-Year Profile.”
Next, we will look at Malaki Starks, who was the Bulldogs’ second-highest-rated prospect in the 2022 class.
Ranking: Starks was the nation’s No. 19 overall prospect, No. 1 athlete and No. 4 player in the state of Georgia, per the 247Sports Composite.
Size: 6-foot-1, 205-pounds
Story: Starks grew up around Athens in nearby Jefferson, Ga. He played for Jefferson High School and helped lead the Dragons to the GHSA Class 4A state championship during his junior year. Starks was a two-way player for Jefferson at safety and quarterback, which is why he’s listed as an “athlete.” Sometimes he would also line up at running back and wide receiver.
The former five-star had offers from schools all over the country, although he never took an official visit to any of them, according to his 247Sports profile. Starks named a final three of Alabama, Clemson and Georgia on Nov. 3, 2020. He then committed to the Bulldogs on March 20, 2021, and inked his letter of intent on Early Signing Day (Dec. 15, 2021). Starks then enrolled in December and practiced with the team this past spring.
2022 Impact: Georgia is very thin at safety heading into next season after losing Lewis Cine to the 2022 NFL Draft. The Bulldogs return Christopher Smith, William Poole and Dan Jackson at the position. Starks and fellow freshman JaCorey Thomas were the only two safety signees in the Bulldogs’ 2022 recruiting haul. However, UGA head coach Kirby Smart rotates defensive backs a lot, which is why Starks will likely have to compete with returnees Tykee Smith and David Daniel (as well as those previously mentioned) for playing time.
Starks has been with the program since last December and went through a full spring practice schedule. He impressed in the annual G-Day scrimmage by racking up five total tackles. Starks looked great in coverage and displayed his sprinter speed on some occasions. He is more than likely going to start out on special teams and will work his way up for playing time. Either way, Dawg-Watch sees Starks making a significant impact on the Bulldogs’ defense by midseason in 2022. He could also possibly earn a starting role as the season goes on. Starks could easily reach his potential early in his career at UGA.
“Owns a workable frame. Has some length in the arms. Hovering right around 200 pounds, but should be able to bulk up once working with a college strength coach, if desired. A dynamic two-way player that gets the job done as a triple-option quarterback, but projects as a box safety or off-ball linebacker at the next level. One of the best overall athletes in the class of 2022 given track and field profile. Went 10.88 in the 100-meter dash spring before senior season. Also jumped over 22 feet. Swivel hips allow him to turn and stick with players in coverage. Initial burst makes it easy for him to get across the field. Competitive in pursuit and when the ball is in the air. Not the most technically sound tackler, but attacks ball carriers and isn’t afraid to lower his shoulder pads. Must continue to add some functional strength and get better at reading and reacting to what’s in front of him, but should be viewed as a high-ceiling defensive prospect given twitch, fluidity and physicality. Could morph into a hit-and-run linebacker that doesn’t have to leave the field or carve out a role as a larger safety that can crash a gap on first down, cover a slot receiver on second down and then blitz on third down. Has the potential to eventually hear his name called early on in the NFL Draft if everything comes together.” - Andrew Ivins, 247Sports
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