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Bulldogs in the Draft: Malik Herring

NCAA Football: Georgia at Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

We continue our look at draft-eligible Bulldogs with a defensive line stalwart from Middle Georgia.

Malik Herring was a Bulldog before he was a Bulldog. A Mary Persons Bulldog, that is. Herring starred for the Forsyth school with a storied football program, earning AJC Super 11 recognition as a senior, dominating on defense. An all-around athlete, Herring also caught 6 touchdown passes from his tight end spot for the Bulldogs from Monroe County. A four star prospect who received early interest from UGA, and a resident of one of the most Red and Black towns in the Peach State, Herring committed well before Signing Day in the class of 2017.

Sometimes it’s hard to know where a high school player will end up playing once they get to college. Linebackers eat themselves into defensive ends. Receivers drop balls and wake up as cornerbacks. Tight ends just keep growing and end up playing tackle. But it was obvious from day one that Malik Herring’s role was going to be as a defensive lineman. And his athleticism meant that he could be used in a variety of situations along the defensive front.

Bulldog defensive line coach Tracy Rocker did just that with the freshman in 2017, playing him in all 15 games of Georgia’s Rose Bowl winning, national runner-up season. While Herring tallied only 7 tackles in time spelling a deep veteran unit, he showed enough that it was obvious he’d be a fixture in Athens soon enough.

Sure enough, as a sophomore Herring posted 23 tackles and 3.5 sacks from his defensive end spot, again playing in each contest that season, and eventually earning a starting nod late in the year. By 2019 he was starting a majority of games and registered an eye-popping 18 QB pressures, easily leading the team and third nationally. amazingly he raised that to 24 quarterback pressures in 2020, good for second nationally.

And therein lies one of Malik Herring’s strong suits: dependability. He has been a very productive, steady player as part of the Bulldog defense over four seasons. He’s not flashy. Herring doesn’t have Azeez Ojulari’s speed off the edge, nor does he have the quickest first step. He’s not trim in the waist, nor particularly tall.

Malik Herring just finds ways to get past the guy in front of him with striking regularity. He has great hands, is good at using leverage, and has developed a solid repertoire of pass rushing moves.

And he was turning heads at the Senior Bowl in January with those skills.

At least until he suffered a poorly timed ACL tear. Herring still hopes to be back on the field by September. But the knee injury certainly didn’t help his draft status. He has a solid body of work on tape for scouts to evaluate. But it’s difficult to justify using a third, fourth, or even fifth round pick on a guy with that kind of question mark. Herring looks like a likely late round pick, though sadly he may have to catch on via a free agent deal.

The team that does pick him up may find that they got a steal. Herring is a ball player, and if he can get healthy could end up providing a late season boost to a lucky team. From there he’ll need to catch on just like he did in Athens. Until later...

Go ‘‘Dawgs!!!