Malaki Starks: 5-star Georgia commit turning heads nationally this spring

Malaki Starks-Georgia recruiting-UGA recruiting
Malaki Starks is rated as one of the nation's top athletes on the football field for the 2022 cycle, but that criteria goes a lot farther than that. He has given his father Larry a lot more to be proud of over the last month.

Want to attack every day with the latest Georgia football recruiting info? That’s what the Intel brings. This entry is about the most impressive things that 5-star Georgia commit Malaki Starks has done during track season this spring.

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The choose your adventure books used to be a cool childhood novelty. So much fun. Well, there’s a way to apply that freedom of choice to the latest regarding the track exploits of 5-star Georgia football commitment Malaki Starks this spring.

Consider a choose-your-story-lede like:

  • If you believe 5-star Georgia football commitment Malaki Starks is capable of posting the third-best long jump in the nation, go to paragraph four.
  • Want to know why Malaki Starks is trending in the same athletic realms as Georgia greats like Champ Bailey and Matthew Boling, then go to paragraph five.
  • Starks is rated as the nation’s No. 3 ATH on the football field by the 247Sport Composite. Do you believe he’s in a class by himself when it comes to football players on the track? Go to any of the ensuing paragraphs in order for your next move.
  • 5-star Texas receiver Evan Stewart is the apple of the Georgia recruiting fan’s eye with his blistering track times this spring. Do you think that a current UGA commit has already ran faster and jumped farther than he has this year? Go to paragraph seven for those answers.

Here’s the thing that should get Georgia fans even more excited when it comes to Starks: All of the above will apply.

Starks soared 24 feet, 9 inches this spring. It is the best long jump in Georgia more than a foot. According to the database maintained by Athletic.net, it is the third-best long jump in the high school ranks nationally this spring. That effort is also the best in the country by an underclassman.

To put that in perspective, the long-time long jump record at UGA was held by NFL Hall of Famer Champ Bailey until earlier this year. Bailey’s mark of 25 feet, 11 inches stood from his time at UGA from 1996-1998. That was until it was smashed by repeated jumps from sophomore phenom Matthew Bowling this year. Boling flew for multiple efforts of more than 26 feet back in February.

The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Starks is still in high school. The steadfast 5-star commitment is expected to start out at safety in Athens and could even freelance on offense once he gets acclimated. He’s a quarterback at Jefferson High. He led his Dragons to a 14-1 mark as a junior. Starks committed to UGA back in March.

Georgia fans have their eyes locked onto the recruitment of 5-star WR Evan Stewart in the 2022 class. Rightfully so. Stewart ranks as the nation’s No. 3 WR and No. 34 overall recruit for 2022 on the 247Sports Composite. He’s an electric athlete with gamebreaker potential. Stewart’s best 100 this year is at 10.58 seconds and he has a top long jump of 24-6.5 so far in 2021.

Starks is a points machine for Jefferson High School’s Class 4A track teams which should be seen as strong contenders at the state meet this weekend in Albany. Here’s a quick scan of where his top performances rank so far this spring.

  • 100 meters: 10.55 seconds (1st in 4A; Tied for fourth-best in GA this year)
  • 200 meters: 21.67 seconds (3rd in 4A; Tied for ninth-best in GA this year)
  • Long jump: 24 feet, 9 inches (1st in 4A, 1st in GA, 3rd in the nation this year)

He should be seen as an anchor commitment for the 2022 class for several reasons. DawgnNation provided its best possible read on Starks earlier this year. He is an uncommon person. Forget all of these athletic marvels detailed up above.

Yet he looks at what he is doing on the track as a way to improve his overall athletic ability.

“I just think it makes me move better,” Starks said this week. “Like I’m learning how to use my body.”

Starks said he had a previous best of 23 feet, 7 inches in the long rump. He was caught by surprise with his latest effort. He wasn’t gunning or training to hit a certain plateau this spring to get ready for the state meet in Albany this weekend.

“To be honest I don’t know,” Starks said. “It just happened.”

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Malaki Starks made a lot of the state happy when he put that Georgia hat on back on March 25. The 5-star ATH chose UGA over strong interest in Alabama and Clemson. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

Malaki Starks: How track makes him a better football player

Jefferson coach Gene Cathcart has a couple of go-to phrases he uses to describe Starks. He’s known to call him a “chronic winner” or just “the rarest combination” at times.

“When we look back at his time at Jefferson it is going to be something,” Cathcart said. “He’s won a state track championship. He’s been the Georgia State Middle School State Track Athlete of the Year. He has a chance this week to be part of another state championship in track. He’s taken his football team to the state finals and he’s taken his basketball team to the finals.”

How does track help him on the field?

“I think one reason that coach [Kirby] Smart and other folks really appreciate multiple-sport athletes is number one they know how to compete,” Cathcart said. “I think one of the unique things about track is there is such a small window. If you scratch or false start or you DQ, you’re in trouble. You’ve got to be at your best at that moment. I think that is a great lesson that track teaches.”

Cathcart is aware of the age of specialization in high school athletics. That wasn’t the case a generation or 30 years ago.

“I think these multiple-sport athletes at our school and at other schools have a real appreciation for every opportunity they have to compete and represent their family and their communities,” he said. “I just have great admiration for the modern multi-sport athlete because it takes a great deal of time, effort and energy.

Starks was timed at 11.02 seconds in the 100 as a freshman. He also was closed at 22.55 in the state meet in the 200. He never got a chance to compete in the state track meet his sophomore year because of the global pandemic.

The fact that he has now lowered his time in the 100 meters almost a half-second from 2019 to 2021 says something. It likely helped Starks roll for 321 yards and four TDs on the road in Savannah in the semifinals of the state playoffs. He operated at the QB in run-first and run-second offense at Jefferson in 2020 after having been a defensive back, running back and receiver in previous years.

He piled up 1,537 rushing yards (8.9 yards per attempt) and 24 rushing touchdowns last fall.

“I think he’s gotten a lot faster,” Cathcart said. “I don’t know if a lot of people know that he had a pretty severe leg injury his freshman that cost him varsity football and most of varsity basketball. He kind of used track to almost rehab part of that year. He’s shown a great deal of improvement and growth there.”

“But here lately, he’s hit a spurt so-to-speak where he’s taken it all to the next level.”

His longtime coach would never compare anybody to a racehorse, but he brings up imagery that leads to that well-loved “Seabiscuit” movie when it comes to Starks.

“It is important that he makes eye contact with the other person,” Cathcart said. “Because Seabiscuit is not going to lose a competition. That’s Malaki. He always responds in the biggest stages at the biggest events and while facing the biggest competition. There is just that true competitor’s heart about him.”

Georgia fans will likely appreciate the chance to choose their own adventures with Starks on the field in Atlanta, Athens, Auburn, Baton Rouge, Jacksonville and Tuscaloosa in the years to come.

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