Sometimes early talent assessments do become reality.
Such was the case with Malik Leverett, who was a dominant player at Greenbriar Middle School in Evans, GA, during the 2017 and 2018 season. As an eighth grader in 2018, Leverett piled up almost 1,000 yards rushing and scored 24 touchdowns, despite sitting out the fourth quarter in most games as Greenbriar racked up big leads. Greenbriar finished 7-0 and won the middle school championship behind Leverett’s efforts.
“When he got into middle school, seventh grade, people were already like, ‘Hey, keep your eye on this kid,”’ Greenbriar High School football coach Tony Kramer said. “He was really kind of a man amongst boys at that point.”
But while some middle school stars fade when they reach the high school level, Leverett continued to excel. He became a varsity starter at wide receiver as a freshman and is now regarded as one of the top prospects in the recruiting class of 2023 from the state of Georgia.
Although entering the recruiting race for Leverett late after extending a scholarship offer in mid-May, East Carolina earned his verbal commitment on June 26, just days after he made an official visit to campus.
Leverett, a 6-foot-3, 200-pounder, chose the Pirates over a lengthy offer list that included Akron, Austin Peay, Coastal Carolina, Colorado, Georgia Southern, Indiana, James Madison, Kansas State, Maryland, Miami, Ohio, Minnesota, Middle Tennessee State, Troy and Wake Forest.
Kramer said the proximity of Greenville to Evans, and the family atmosphere Leverett felt during his official visit on June 22 were major factors in his decision to make his pledge to ECU.
“I really think the players that hosted him and the coaches shared the type of environment they have,” Kramer said. “They didn’t just tell Malik about it, they showed him. It seemed like a pretty close-knit family. Malik and his family kind of looked at that as something that was important for them to help Malik mature, not just as a football player but as a person.
“Being within driving distance was also a factor. Being close to home so the family can see him play was something big. It (ECU) was close enough, but far enough away he could feel like he was off to college. All that kind of collectively sold Malik.”
The Pirates are getting a physically mature and athletic receiver who developed just 20 minutes down the road from Grovetown High School, which produced former ECU and current NFL offensive lineman D’Ante Smith.
Earning a starting job on the Greenbriar varsity as a freshman in 2019, Leverett ranked second in team receiving with 23 catches for 302 yards and three touchdowns, while also completing two passes for 47 yards and a touchdown.
Leverett more than doubled those receiving statistics as a sophomore, making 63 catches for 683 yards and seven touchdowns, while maintaining his perfect passing record (2-for-2, 74 yards, touchdown). He then emerged as one of Georgia’s top prep pass receivers last season when he ranked third in the state with 1,326 receiving yards on 77 catches with eight touchdowns in just 10 games. Leverett also added 136 yards and six touchdowns rushing and was 4-for-4 passing for 94 yards and two scores. The performance earned him all-state 5A honorable mention honors from Recruit Georgia.
“He’s a different kind of athlete than I’ve coached because he has the size and the speed to go along with it,” Kramer said. “He’s just one of those bigger guys that you can look for a matchup with. If you’ve got a guy lined up across from him that’s 5-9, 5-10 at defensive back or corner, you’ve got an advantage there. He’s maybe kind of like an A.J. Green type, who played at Georgia. He’s a longer type receiver. He has a good wingspan and good hands. He’s not one of your 5-11 speedster type guys. But he’s definitely someone who, when you talk about defending him, you’ve got to be able to match his size and physicality. That’s something that makes him unique compared to other high school receivers.”
But Leverett does have plenty of speed to turn on the jets when needed, too. Kramer gave an example while describing a play Leverett made last season.
“Early on in recruiting coaches want to know, ‘How fast is he? How explosive can he be?’ ” Kramer said. “Well, there was a particular play last year that we just threw a basic bubble screen. He caught the ball, and it was instant. He put his foot in the ground, got vertical and went untouched right through the defense. He has that burst and football game speed. He’s shown he has that extra gear along with the ability to make people miss.”
While ECU’s depth chart at receiver will feature many younger players in 2022, several veterans could be departing the program after next season. Either way, Kramer believes Leverett could be a factor when he arrives in the fall of 2023.
“Just based on what a lot of college coaches tell me, physically he’ll fit right in,” Kramer said. “He’s got the height, the speed, all the dimensions. I really think if he can get in, learn the system and grasp the concepts they want, he’ll definitely get on the field.”