In this installment of The Recruiting Notebook, we meet a multi-talented defender with a knack for getting after the quarterback, and the all-around game at his position that has seldom been seen at Miami in recent years: Orlando (FL) Jones 4-star LB Malik Bryant.
One of the positions needing the most immediate rebuilding of the roster for Mario Cristobal’s Hurricanes is linebacker. And, to help reshape that portion of the roster, Cristobal and company turned their attention to Orlando (FL) Jones 4-star Malik Bryant for immediate assistance.
A powerfully built 6’2” 235lbs, Bryant is the SEC-sized player at Linebacker that Miami has seldom had. And, with Cristobal’s vision for a better Miami program, one that can compete for championships, players with the size and skill of Bryant are going to be the foundation for success.
Bryant has had 2 homes during high school: Orlando Jones and Bradenton (FL) IMG Academy. Bryant starred at Jones as a freshman, totaling 78 tackles and 14 sacks for a Tigers team that played in the 5A State Championship game. After bursting onto the scheme in such a big way, Bryant was in line for a superstar career at Jones, a traditional powerhouse in Orlando, but a move to the elite boarding school at IMG was Bryant’s second stop in his career.
And that second stop was incredibly impressive. Playing as both a linebacker and stand up edge rusher, Bryant was one of the standout players on the Ascenders’ defense in 2020 and 2021 on teams that are annually LOADED with elite, blue chip, P5 talent. For his efforts and achievements, Bryant earned 1st team All-American honors as a sophomore, and 2nd team All-American accolades as a junior. And, along the way, top P5 teams from around the country started lobbing offers to Bryant in the hopes of building a relationship that would eventually end up with him committing to their team. And yes, Miami was among them, even before Cristobal took the helm as coach.
After his junior year at IMG, Bryant made the move to transfer back home, returning to Orlando Jones for his senior year. Not unheard of by any means, but definitely eye-opening for an All-American talent such as Bryant.
In terms of recruiting, things picked up for Bryant in the spring of his junior year. Unofficial visits to Florida and Miami for the Canes’ Junior Day highlighted plenty of action for the standout defender. Add in coach visits from Nick Saban and Kirby Smart and you’re starting to see the picture of a massive battle for one of the country’s elite defenders.
After naming a top 5 of Alabama, Florida, Miami, USC, and UCF in May, Bryant then endeavored to take visits to some of his listed top schools....and some others. Unofficial visits to Alabama (his second in a matter of months) and Florida surrounded official visits to Florida, Miami, and Maryland. But, after his final OV, Bryant’s mind was made up. Despite Florida’s best efforts (lol) the elite defender committed to Miami on July 27th.
And, if you’re tracking, Bryant took at least one subsequent unofficial visit to Florida after committing to Miami. And Florida was pushing hard late for a flip. But no dice; Bryant has signed and submitted his NLI to Miami, a fact I’m sure Gator fans hate.
Oh well. *EYE* love to see it.
On the 247sports composite, Bryant is a 4-star prospect, the #6 LB nationally, #18 in the State of Florida, and #82 player overall in this class.
Bryant committed to Miami over Florida, Maryland, and Alabama from a massive list of 41 scholarship offers from around the country.
As A Player
The first thing you notice about Bryant is his impressive built. A legit 6’2” 235lbs, Bryant looks like an SEC linebacker right now. That’s especially noteworthy since no Miami linebacker in the past 15-ish years has been built like Bryant. He’s the kind of physical player that’s been sorely lacking for the Canes, and getting him on the roster is a big value add.
One of Bryant’s best qualities is his ability to rush the passer. For a lot of inner-city schools across Florida, teams will put their best player on the edge of the defense and just have them go after the QB and get the ball. Bryant does that at an elite level, and it should be part of his duties and responsibilities in college. But, like many HS players, Bryant’s rushing is mostly finesse, running around slower, less talented HS OL than using technique or power to get by them. These are areas for growth, but when you’re talking about a rusher as productive as Bryant, that growth should take him from great to exceptional at the collegiate level.
With his pass rushing ability, Bryant is a dynamic blitzer. He’s able to get up the field and impact plays at any time, and his size allows him to be both an edge and interior blitzer. Miami would be wise to use him in this way in the future as well.
Bryant isn’t the fastest player in the world, but he’s got good speed for the position, and excellent short area quickness. These are traits that have helped him as a pass rusher and blitzer, but also help him get to and handle skill players in space. Bryant is a sure tackler, which Miami desperately needs.
Bryant is a valuable defender against the pass as well. He’s able to run with backs and tight ends on seam and wheel routes, and has multiple interceptions to his credit in HS. I’d rather him play moving forward, but Bryant is a 3-down linebacker who is equally successful against the run and rushing as he is playing coverage.
Here’s an additional look at Bryant from 247sports Director of Scouting Andrew Ivins:
A front-seven player that can get after the quarterback. Initial burst tends to cause plenty of issues for opposing offensive tackles. Seems to be at his best when he’s asked to just attack the corner, but can track back inside and flush out pockets with a few different well-timed pass rushing moves. Ability to redirect in space and get lateral make him a difference maker outside the hashes. Also owns valuable experience in pass coverage having been asked in the past to stick with much quicker wide receivers coming out of the slot. More of a finesse rusher than power rusher at this stage in his development, but that could change as he matures. Average measurables (believed to be just over 6-foot-2, 235 pounds) and a lack of additional length in the arms could turn away some, but body of work speaks for itself as he started as a freshman in Florida’s highest classification before spending the next two years producing at the national powerhouse that is IMG Academy. Might be best suited for a 3-4 look, but could also find a role in a 4-3 front, potentially even as an off-ball linebacker. Likely going to need some time to get adjusted to the speed and physicality of big-time college football, but has the tools to eventually blossom into a starter for a Top 25 program.
- Pass rushing
- Dynamic and disruptive playmaker
- Elite performance for 4 year in HS
- Transition to college defensive scheme
- Not lengthy in terms of wingspan
- Needs to add physicality to pass rushing
Miami’s linebacker room is going to be 90% new players. With that being the case, there is definitely a chance for Bryant to see the field as a freshman. If the path to playing time of Wesley Bissainthe is a guide, expect Bryant to be part of sub-packages early, with potential for that role to grow throughout the season. Bryant could also find additional playing time on passing downs as an edge rusher, something he does with incredible results (see: his 14 sacks as a HS freshman for evidence). With Miami’s DE room, that might not happen too much, but it surely could.
Bryant is the prototypical linebacker Cristobal wants for his program. Pair that with the obvious and demonstrated athleticism and talent Bryant possesses, and the youngster will have every opportunity to showcase that ability and make plays for the Canes.
Bryant is one of the top players at his position in the country, and if everything goes well, he will be able to make a big name for himself at Miami. Linebacker is a position where improved talent and performance have been needed for many years, and Malik Bryant should be able to provide both in the short and long terms for the Canes. Bryant has all the tools to be among Miami’s best linebackers in the past 10+ years. It’s all on him to make that come alive from here.
That’s it for this installment of The Recruiting Notebook.