Quarterback Malik Willis has been like a sponge in his first Organized Team Activities (OTAs) with the Tennessee Titans.
The Titans moved up in the third round to select the Liberty product in the 2022 NFL draft, and it’s been all positive reviews thus far.
“Engaged. That’s what’s really cool about him when I first met him before the draft,” said Titans quarterbacks coach Pat O’Hara. “He lights up, just a good person, fun to be around, very coachable, and open to learning. He wants the information, he’s constantly asking for the information.”
After two seasons at Auburn where Willis was a backup, the Atlanta, Georgia native transferred to Liberty in 2020 and went on to win the Dudley and Bobby Bowden Awards.
In 2021, Willis completed 61.1 percent of his passes and threw for 2,857 yards and 27 touchdowns, while also showing his dynamic running ability with 878 yards on the ground.
As the heir-apparent to Ryan Tannehill, the Titans’ plan going into the 2022 season is to develop Willis. Whether or not he’s trusted to be Tannehill’s primary back remains to be seen, though.
In general manager Jon Robinson’s tenure, the Titans have never carried three quarterbacks on the initial 53-man roster. Usually, the extra roster spot went to another wide receiver or defensive player.
Logan Woodside will presumably be Tannehill’s backup heading into training camp and preseason. However, with a strong showing, Willis could supplant him as the No. 2 quarterback.
Going from a small school to the NFL, there will be plenty of adjustments and teaching moments to set Willis up for long-term success. O’Hara explained “the operation” Willis needs to learn before taking the field.
“Quarterbacks, when they come in, you really have to teach ‘the operation,’ and that’s really everything you do before you even touch the football,” O’Hara explained. “It’s a huddle, it’s a play-call, it’s a cadence at the line of scrimmage, it’s under center, it’s getting us in the right play at the line of the scrimmage. It’s shifts, it’s motions, and there’s an operation that has to take place during the play clock, a 40-second play clock. There’s tasks, and all of those tasks are part of the operation. Each day, that’s improving and we just keep moving forward one day at a time.”
It’ll be interesting to see how the Titans approach the quarterback situation when the time comes to trim the roster down to 53 players, but it’s very possible Willis begins his career as Tennessee’s No. 3 signal-caller.