Malast Provides Experience & Leadership

PISCATAWAY, N.J. — He is actively searching for the ball carrier, eyes reading the quarterback, reading him like a professional poker player.

While he is directing traffic to his defensive teammates, Kevin Malast is also positioning himself accordingly, looking for an opportunity to force a turnover, strip an opposing tailback or distract a quarterback with a blind-side blitz.

Kevin Malast has immediately stepped into an important role in the Scarlet Knights' football program, ever since Brandon Renkart completed his final year of eligibility last season.

But, Malast's eyes indicate years of preparation and hard work, not nervousness.

Maybe, credit his successful high school wrestling career, which totaled more than 100 wins.

"Absolutely, I think that has helped my mental toughness, overcoming adversity and things of that nature," Malast, who was named captain for the upcoming season, said after Thursday's training camp session.

Or, his baseball days?

"Baseball was my relaxing sport," he said, jokingly. "I guess I was OK at it. I haven't really carried anything from baseball to here."

To here refers to the Knights' organization, where Malast awakens to lengthy practices, sprints and tape review each day. But, after so many years On the Banks, the conditioning has become routine for him.

"Practice is pretty up tempo anyway," he said. "We work extremely hard during practice, we don't even need gassers. The tempo's nonstop, coaches yelling at you nonstop, all of our coaches are. And when you keep the tempo up like that, you don't really need them (sprints). You get your conditioning through practice."

When Malast first arrived, the Knights' coaching staff assigned him to special teams' coverage. By his third season, Malast's proficiency earned him the starting job at weakside linebacker.

"I think it's going real well," he said of practice. "I came in with the attitude that I need to get better each practice and each day. I feel like I'm doing that right now, and the rest of the linebackers are doing the same."

Certainly, Malast adjusted to the different levels of competition between high school and Division I.

"Just getting used to the tempo," Malast said, referring to the biggest difference between his first and fourth year. "These practices are way more intense. High school was more laid back. You can never compare anything to this. When you get here, everything is more fast tempo. Now I'm used to it. Now I'm all about it. But, coming in here, it was definitely hard to adjust as a freshman.

"I didn't watch film like the way I do now."

Meanwhile, head coach Greg Schiano has recruited younger and adept linebackers to replace Malast after this season.

"We're establishing a solid two-deep," Malast said of the linebacker depth. "If something happens to a starter then someone can come in and play. That's what we need. That's how you know a team's doing well."

Malast expressed much confidence in reserve linebacker Antonio Lowery, who, in 2007, competed in all 13 games as a true freshman, mostly on special teams.

"My backup Lowery is going through the same thing I went through sophomore year- special teams first two years," he said. "But, he's real committed, real excited to overtake my spot next year. And I'm teaching him everything I know so he can step right in and carry out the duties."

In the meantime, Malast returns to the huddle and enjoys his final year here with realistic intentions.

"It's been a good time since I've been here," he said. "I would obviously hope to win every game but whatever happens, happens. We're just gonna continue to get better and be the best we can possibly be.

"It's a good group of guys here, and it's a pleasure playing for coach Schiano, and hopefully, I can go out of my senior year successfully."

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