Liberty star quarterback Malik Willis figures to make plenty of preseason 2021 college football watch lists this summer. Earlier this week, he was named to Pro Football Focus’ very own preseason Heisman Trophy watch list.
Willis did not make the list as one of the favorites or unknowns, but as one of the deeper sleeper picks. He was given +5000 odds.
“Willis has sky-high expectations for being a non-Power Five quarterback after what he showed in Year 1 with Liberty in 2020,” PFF had to say about the Liberty quarterback. “He is electric on the ground and pairs that with a cannon of an arm. Fumbles were an issue, but he did pick up 10 or more yards on 32.8% of his runs and broke 0.34 tackles per attempt, which ranks second and fifth, respectively, among FBS quarterbacks in a single season in the PFF College era.”
“He has special rushing ability, and that’s not a debate. His passing is what keeps him off PFF’s favorites list for the Heisman Trophy. He does indeed have a strong arm, which led him to a 7.1% big-time throw rate that tied for 16th in the FBS, but he needs to show week-to-week consistency as a passer and ultimately raise the 75.5 passing grade he put forth in 2020. The tools are there for him to do so, which makes him a legitimate dark horse despite not playing for a Power Five program.”
Other sleepers on the list include USC QB Kedon Slovis, Florida QB Emory Jones, Texas QB Casey Thompson, and LSU cornerback Derek Stingley Jr.
Willis finished 2020 as the No. 1 rushing quarterback in the country, leading all FBS quarterbacks with 944 rushing yards and 14 rushing touchdowns. He set a school record in both statistical categories for a quarterback with those totals. Willis led the Flames in total offense, passing yards, and passing touchdowns in 2020 while finishing the year No. 7 in the country in rushing touchdowns and No. 16 in rushing yards. He’s already been named to the Davey O’Brien Award and the Maxwell Award preseason watch lists.