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Malek Young looks to cap off energizing freshman campaign with bowl game victory

After becoming a starting cornerback late in the season, freshman Malek Young will look to finish 2016 with a stellar performance in the Russell Athletic Bowl

Miami v North Carolina State Photo by Lance King/Getty Images

Entering the season, freshman defensive back Malek Young was fighting for playing time. When Miami released its first official depth chart in late August, Young was neither a first nor second string cornerback.

The 5’9” freshman found himself behind two seniors and two sophomores, and seemed to be developing his game behind the scenes. Two months into the season; however, injuries and poor play took Miami by storm, and Young was thrusted into the spotlight.

The freshman entered Miami as a 3 star recruit, but was invited to the U.S. Army All-American game, and was the only cornerback player listed in the ‘Canes 2016 class.

After a stellar senior season at Coconut Creek High School, Young flipped his commitment from Georgia to Miami after Mark Richt’s arrival. His commitment signified the first University of Georgia flip during Richt’s regime, and Young played up to his potential during the second half of 2016.

The freshman took a stranglehold of the cornerback spot, and combined for 19 tackles in the last four games of the season to go along with his first career interception versus NC State.

“I feel a little more confidence than when I first got here,” Young said after practice on Tuesday. “Feeling more confidence just to come back and put in the work with my teammates and build the bond back together and push farther than a bowl game next year and hope for a an ACC championship or further.”

Young’s aspirations at Miami are large, but his development is on track. The 180 lb local product gave the ‘Canes stability at the cornerback position despite a host of injuries surrounding him, and steadily improved as the year went along.

Young has responded to every challenge thrown his way thus far, but will have his largest challenge ahead on Wednesday vs West Virginia.

The Mountaineers wield the 12th ranked total offense in the nation, and have one of the most potent passing attacks in the Big 12, with junior wide receiver Shelton Gibson racking up 927 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns.

“He has run by everyone who has played against him this year,” defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said after practice. “We’ve told all of our DBs the guys he is running by, we are told, he ran by all the guys they had last week. So his speed is really frightening.”

But regardless of how Young fares against West Virginia, Miami knows the freshman has responded remarkably to the tough situation he was thrusted into.

“Malek is baptism by fire,” Diaz said. “He’s having to grow in a hurry in terms of maturity of not just covering but just being to play all the calls and execute whether it is the alignment or look or whatever it is. So, he’s got a very bright future and for better or worse that future is now.”