July 27, 2011

Coach: Salahuddin will settle in at LB

Fayetteville (N.C.) Jack Britt coach Richard Bailey has seen NC State commit Majid Salahuddin's position change coming for a while now, so he had the rising-senior work out this spring at linebacker, although he had previously played safety. It was certainly a move that paid off because when Salahuddin camped at NC State this summer, the Wolfpack coaches wanted to see the 6-3, 198-pounder at his new position even though he started off with the defensive backs.

"I'm in contact with the NC State coaches so I kind of told them that I thought that was where his future was," Bailey said. "Because my linebacker coach had been working with M.J. at linebacker he went down there [at camp] and he was very natural doing things. If we would have been working him at safety [during the spring] and then they moved him to linebacker for camp, he probably would have look awkward and not good enough. But when they moved him down there and he was able to do all of the drills, they said, 'OK, you can play linebacker.'

"I really feel like we gave him advanced training there because I knew that was probably where his future was going to be. He's not a 4.4 [second 40-yard dash] guy, he's a 4.7 guy and he can play linebacker at 4.7; it's going to be hard to be a DB at 4.7."

With the excellent showing at NC State's camp, and a 4.62 timing in the 40 to boot, Salahuddin was offered by Tom O'Brien and company. A few days later, he pulled the trigger for the Pack.

Bailey, who has coached Salahuddin on Britt's varsity squad since the youngster's sophomore year, said he knew from the first time he saw the player that he had a special talent on his hands.

"He moved in as a sophomore, so I didn't see him as a freshman," Bailey said. "He moved in later. If he would have been here as a freshman, he might have been a varsity player for three full years already but he moved in from Oklahoma right before football of his sophomore year.

"We pulled him up to varsity as a sophomore during the playoffs and he actually ended up starting in a couple of playoff games the year we went to the state championship game. By the time we got to play Butler in the state championship, my starting guy was back but [M.J.] was a primary back-up and played on all special teams. So his sophomore year, he actually started on varsity late then last year he started full-time."

In his first campaign as a full-time starter, Salahuddin racked up 79 tackles, including three sacks, snared one interception, broke up four more passes, forced a fumble and recovered a loose ball. The three-star prospect should have even more opportunities as a senior with the move closer to the line of scrimmage, but he excels even more off the field with his intangibles.

"M.J. is a very, very versatile player, a very intelligent football player," the coach said. "He played safety for me his first two years and he's going to play outside linebacker this year. He's a very, very coachable kid. He's a great athlete, he's a very pretty kid - he's the first guy off the bus-type. He's going to do what he's coached to do. We've got to work on his speed a little bit, but he's gotten faster.

"He's one that's going to work his butt off, I always tell people there are a lot of five-star guys that have three-star work ethics. M.J. may not be but a three-star guy, but he's got a five-star work ethic, he's going to make himself into a five-star player, just by sheer will. He's going to come to every practice, every training table meal. If they tell him he needs to be 230, he'll eat everything in sight, take every supplement he needs to take. I couldn't speak highly enough about his character, he'll be a winner at NC State. You give him two years in that program, he'll be an All-ACC type of kid."

Salahuddin stood out at a recent Shrine Bowl practice by taking a leadership role among the linebacking corps. He was also one of the most impressive-looking prospects in attendance.

"He's got a huge frame, he's definitely going to be 6-2, 6-3 and 230 with that 4.7, 4.6 speed [in the 40], he's not going to get slower," Bailey said. "A lot of his speed is just the mechanics, he's just got to get the fundamentals of running. His growth potential is through the roof, he's going to be 230 and still look like a Greek God. He's got probably three percent body fat right now at about 198 pounds, so he'll be 200 by our football season."

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