Taaj Bakari: His Coach’s Take

Oklahoma State is expecting to sign three defensive linemen next Wednesday on National Signing Day, including 6-2, 30-5-pound Taaj Bakari from Mansfield Legacy High School in Texas. With National Signing Day around the corner (Feb. 4), we visited with the Mansfield Legacy head coach Chris Melson about Bakari and his future with the OSU Cowboys.

What are Taaj’s strengths as a football player?
Melson: Speed, athletic ability, parallel to the line of scrimmage. He’s so fast and quick. He has great instinct, he always finds the ball and he’s going to make plays.

What are the areas that he’ll need to improve to play in the Big 12 Conference?
Melson: I’m not a Big 12 coach, but he’s the best defensive lineman I’ve seen in high school. I’ve coached 24 years, played at Oklahoma and seen a lot of great ones … maybe use his hands a little bit better. Obviously, I think his technique should improve as he moves up in the level of play, but he’s outstanding.

Is there one play or one game that you’ll always remember about Taaj?
Melson: This year against Crowley High School he just dominated the line of scrimmage from sideline to sideline. He had 15 tackles, 5 for a loss, a forced fumble .There were a lot of great games that he played. He played great against Timberview, week nine (of the season). They had a great offensive line and he kinda dominated from tackle to tackle, and they couldn’t run the ball like they wanted to. He was responsible for most of that. He had a lot of great games.

Why do you think he chose Oklahoma State?
Melson: He loved the campus, he loved the coaching staff, he loved everything about it when he went for his Junior Day visit. He came back and thought it was the greatest thing he’s ever seen. He really likes coach Gundy and all the coaches. I guess he felt like it was a place where he’d fit in really well, and just kind of fell in love with it.

What type of person is Taaj away from football? Can you talk a little bit about his character traits?
Melson: He’s happy. He’s always smiling. He’s a leader. He’s very dependable. He’s got a great personality, he’s outgoing and talks to people. He’s just a fun, happy kid.

What will you remember the most about coaching him?
Melson: How tough he was. He broke his hand as a sophomore and had surgery and never missed a game, (and played) with a cast on it. He played as a junior with a shoulder that hurt all the time, and never missed a game. He played this year with a shoulder that hurt. He is just so tough. He is so reliable. His speed and toughness are really just the things I won’t forget, and I just love him. He cared so much about the result of the game and the team. He just had a huge heart. Oklahoma State did really, really, really good in getting this cat. He’s special. He’s only 17, and he’ll still be 17 when he reports to camp (in the summer). He weighs 304 or 305 pounds now at 6-2, and he can fly. He will be the fastest d-linemen that they have.

What else do OSU fans need to know about Taaj?
Melson: He’ll be a captain for Oklahoma State, he’ll be a leader on campus, he’ll graduate, and if he doesn’t get hurt he’ll play in the NFL. He’s a super, super person. He’s the All-American kid.

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