Last week, Clemson sent out a scholarship offer to Jefferson (Ga.) four-star athlete Malaki Starks, giving him the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of family members who once played for the Tigers – including his uncle, Jerome Williams, a tight end under Danny Ford from 1986-89.
“Getting an offer from Clemson is special for anybody,” Starks told The Clemson Insider. “But for me, it was amazing. I have family who went to Clemson and played at Clemson. I’ve watched Clemson since I was little and they’re very successful, so just getting an offer from a program like that meant a lot to me and it just felt really good knowing that I could get an offer from a program like that.”
Starks (6-3, 195) was offered by safeties coach Mickey Conn on June 1, the date Clemson unloaded its initial wave of offers to prospects in the 2022 class.
“We were talking for a while, and something he’s been telling me over time is that I’m a big priority at Clemson, especially defensive wise,” Starks said of Conn. “I’m labeled as an athlete and I can play both sides of the ball, but Coach Conn sees me as a safety-type dude and a dude that can return kicks and punts and stuff like that. He was just telling me about the school and how I would fit in great there and stuff like that.”
Starks is very versatile and has seen action all over the field for Jefferson High School. As a sophomore last season, he rushed for 544 yards on 53 carries (10.3-yard average) and ran for five touchdowns to go with 157 receiving yards and a couple of touchdown catches. Defensively, he was credited with 27 total tackles, five interceptions, three pass deflections and a fumble recovery.
“My positions that I play for my high school team would be free safety, running back, quarterback, wide receiver, and punt returner and kick returner,” Starks said. “The positions I like the most are free safety/corner and wide receiver. But what I would like to play in college, I’m still kind of figuring out, but it would be either a safety/corner-type dude or a wide receiver because I love both sides of the ball and I really haven’t figured it out yet.”
Starks has collected offers from more than a dozen programs, including Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, LSU, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ole Miss, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia Tech along with Clemson.
Right now, several schools are standing out to Starks because of how much love they are showing him.
“Georgia, they make me feel like I’m a priority there, and so does Alabama and so does LSU,” he said. “I talk to all of them. There’s more, like Ole Miss and FSU. I talk to all of them and they make me feel like I’m a big priority there. But Georgia and Alabama and LSU, they stay on me really hard, so it makes me feel like I’m a big deal over there.”
Starks has only been able to unofficially visit two schools thus far in his recruiting process – Alabama and Georgia – but plans to check out as many schools as he can after the NCAA dead period ends, including Clemson.
“Before all this coronavirus and everything started happening, I was going to take a visit to Clemson,” he said. “Then everything got shut down, so I was kind of upset about that. But as soon as I’m able to get up there, I will get up there. I’m very excited to see the campus and get to know all the coaches and see what the school has to offer.”
Starks is trying to focus on his high school football team and upcoming junior season and not worry too much about his recruitment or top schools this early in the process. But Clemson, according to Starks, is “definitely up there” among the schools on his list after joining the mix with its offer.
“What I like most (about Clemson) is that I’m really big on helping people. I love helping people, and you see that a lot with Clemson,” he said.
“They have a bunch of programs, which is something me and Coach Mickey Conn have talked about a lot. And also their leadership, that’s huge to me, and I see that a lot there with Coach Swinney, Coach Mickey Conn, all of them. They’re really big on leadership, which is why they’ve been able to be so successful and why they connect so well.”
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