With all the talents this true freshman brings to the table, Mississippi State might look into some sort of tackle-eligible option. OK, maybe not. Though he does carry a few more pounds right now than idea Malik Dear will never be mistaken for an offensive tackle.
But make no mistake that there are so, so many things the Bulldog staff can dream-up for this kid. For now, high school star running back Dear is breaking in as a receiver. Specifically as part of the slot receiver rotation.
Working out of that role he has caught four balls in the past two games, good for 50 yards total. The twist is that his first time to touch the ball in college action, and on opening night no less, wasn’t running a route. He motioned out of the slot and through the backfield for a handoff. Dear did not go far that time.
But given another chance this past week he turned a similar snap into 19 yards. It reminded why Dear caught so many eyes during spring training, as an early-enrolled freshman. That head-start was priceless.
“I’m glad I came in the spring, because it’s kind of hard from my positon to memorize everything and be ready by the fall. Right now I’m real comfortable in the offense.”
It did not hurt that a couple of older Dogs have been willing to aid the new kid who wants to take their snaps. Fred Ross and Gabe Myles don’t mind helping accelerate Dear’s development. To his credit Dear discovered quickly teachers can’t do it all for him.
“I didn’t know it was going to be so serious, but I found you thou have to go out and learn on your own and learn instead of just doing what the coaches tell you. Go home and study everything.”
By everything, Dear means everything. That dual-duty business, y’know. Then again with his trump card of ball skills and creativity, Mississippi State doesn’t need him to be perfect. Just explosive.
It’s a little ironic then that right up to the last days before opening weekend Dear didn’t know if he was making the trip to Hattiesburg. Or that he would even dress out. “It kind of was a last-minute thing, when they put the little travel list up.
“And I saw my name on the travel list and I kind of got happy!” Kind of, indeed. Getting to handle the ball at least once was a bonus for this new Bulldog, too. And if not on the home field, at least in the home state.
“It was really fun. Kind of different, to be out there with a lot more fans around. I’m not used to that so it was just a fun experience for me.”
Mississippi State are expecting lots of their own fun in the future, watching Dear do his thing. Or things. Sure some will wonder if the number of snaps received in 2015 merit using him immediately. Dear himself is satisfied.
“I think I definitely made a statement to the coaches. I think they made the right decision by not redshirting me.” Now, all that’s left is deciding…is he a receiver, or a runner?
“That question still remains for me today. I still don’t know which one I’m better at. Any play-maker position is good for me.”