As a freshman, Maalik Bomar played in just nine games and recorded seven tackles. His role is going to be expanded in 2010, especially with the recent injury to fellow linebacker Solomon Tentman, who will miss the season with a torn ACL.
“Since the beginning I knew I was going to have to step up,” Bomar said. “I was told I need to get out there and step it up and make plays. As far as Tentman, it’s always a sad thing to see a soldier fallen.”
His play is going to require more than an average sophomore is asked to do, but he feels confident that he has made big strides from ‘09 to ‘10.
“I feel that I’ve learned a lot. I’ve gathered myself and understood the tempo of college football from high school and I’ve gotten stronger and faster.”
When practice started at Higher Ground, Bomar was in the mix to start at linebacker, but he used the 17 practices to show that he was deserving of that spot.
“I feel accomplished,” Bomar said. “Coming in from the beginning to the end (of camp) I felt that we had a lot to learn. We came out here focused, put our work in daily, (in the) meeting rooms. We had complete focus from the beginning to the end.”
Bomar will be one of many young players on the defensive side of the ball, but he feels as though age isn’t what makes a defense, it’s the players on the field.
“Everybody on the outside world is saying we are young, but at the same time that doesn’t make or characterize a defense, it’s the guys, the passion they have for the game, making plays, total focus and assignments,” Bomar said. “And I believe that our defense here at camp made a tremendous increase in our assignments, getting to the ball and playing fast and smart.”
With one of the best linebackers lining up next to him in J.K. Schaffer, Bomar has a huge asset around him to learn how the game is played. He isn’t out there with guys who haven’t started in the past, he is positioned next to a guy who had 100 tackles last season.
“(J.K.) has taken me under his arm and taught me a lot of the ways and how he thinks on the field and the instincts we need to have out there, get the defense set, be the voice, be the commander of the defense. He has taught me a lot.”
Bomar has even impressed his head coach up to this point early in the 2010 season.
“I’ve really like (Maalik’s) mentality and he’s worked extremely hard in the weight room and in conditioning,” Butch Jones said. “He plays with a high energy level and he’s been very consistent, he needs to play championship level football for us. He is explosive and I’m excited because he has really worked his way into that spot (at linebacker).”
The defense may be young according to some, but with both Schaffer and Bomar back for the 2011 season, the potential for a dominating line backing corp. is there.
“Being J.K. is a junior and I am a sophomore, I see it as I have another year to learn with J.K.,” Bomar said. “But at the same time, being that our defense is young, we can still execute now, but we are just going to be even greater in the future.”