Coach Speak: Niketa Battle On Maleak Bryant

The Terps landed Mays (Atlanta, Ga.) tight end Maleak Bryant May 21. Afterwards, his head coach, Niketa Battle, offered more insight into the 6-foot-6, 225-pounder.

The Terps landed Mays (Atlanta, Ga.) tight end Maleak Bryant May 21. Afterwards, his head coach, Niketa Battle, offered more insight into the 6-foot-6, 225-pounder.

Terrapin Times: First off Coach, can you give us a little scouting report on Maleak? What does he bring to an offense?

Niketa Battle: Maleak brings a level of diversity to our offense. We flex him out in Y position, and he causes a lot of mismatches, allowing our other receivers to have one-on-one type coverages. Teams basically put a safety and a linebacker on top of him, and that opens up our offense. But Maleak does a good job stretching the field, running seam routes, outs, things of that nature. He’s just a great athlete.

TT: How did Maleak develop at Mays, Coach? Was he someone that caught your eye right away, or did it take a couple years?

NB: Maleak transferred to us last January. He was about 190 pounds and about 6-4 when he got here. He was a little unorthodox, but we have a real good weight-training program and concentrate on getting the kids bigger, stronger, faster. And within one year he put on 35 pounds. He also got stronger and faster. He ran with our track team to work on his fast-twitch muscles and his long-haul speed. But the kid, he just has some talent. He’s at the bottom of his talent level. I think this year, and once he gets into a college program, he could be one of the best that’s ever done it.

TT: That’s some high praise, Coach. I know Maleak told me Coach Walt Bell thinks he could be like Eric Ebron…

NB: I can see that happening, but he’s going to develop into a bigger body and frame in college. He’s about 6-6, 225 now, but he can easily get to 250 and get faster and stronger. He might bring a whole other dynamic to the game. Imagine someone 6-6, 250, split out in the Y position against a 6-0 linebacker/DB, and it creates all types of mismatches. I really think he’s going to have a real good career.

But the one thing about Maleak is he can also play defensive end. On third and long, we put him in and he’s our rush guy. He pins his ears back and goes and gets the quarterback. He has a lot of explosion coming off the line, he’s long, athletic, and has like a 7-7 wingspan. That kid there is going to be successful on the next level.

TT: What are some areas you’d like to see Maleak improve in, besides gaining weight and getting stronger?

NB: One big area he has to improve is in-line blocking. Maleak came to us as a receiver, and that transition to tight end came when he got to our program. I think when he watches film of some of these guys that do what he does – he’s a big fan of Rob Gronkowski and he knows Vernon Davis came out of Maryland – he’s going to see what he has to do. I think once he gets the in-line blocking down he’s going to be a great tight end.

TT: When did you first know Maleak could reach the top levels of college football? Was there a play he made that caught your eye?

NB: Our receivers coach has a real good knack for bringing the talent out in receivers. Kerry Hood played in the NFL and had a good career at South Carolina. He coaches hard and loves those kids hard, and they take to him. His track record shows that. The first receiver he brought up here, DeAngelo Yancey, just got drafted by Green Bay. So Maleak has seen the great receivers come out of here, and as soon as he got here he just took to Coach Hood and his coaching.

TT: What’s Maleak like in the locker room, Coach? I know he’s only been there for a little while, but what’s his personality and what’s he like around his teammates?

NB: Maleak is what we call our ESPN analyst. He knows about all the recruiting stuff, he knows college football and he knows the NFL. He stays up and studies sports. He’s like a sports analysts and debates around the locker room.

But he’s a very quiet kid in the building. If you didn’t know him, you probably wouldn’t even see him if he was right beside you. But on the field he’ll open up and talk to you. He’s a warrior on the field and a gentle giant off of it.

He’s a great kid. I wish I had a team full of Maleaks. This

TT: Last question, Coach, what did you think of Coach Walt Bell and Coach Pete Lembo who recruited Maleak?

MB: They’re standup guys. Coach Bell was down hanging out last week and talking about football philosophy with us. He commended us on the job we do with the kids and how our program was run. I enjoyed talking to him. I hope they can get some more guys out of Mays.

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