Ex-QB Jamil Muhammad making a difference for Georgia State defense

Auburn cornerback Nehemiah Pritchett (18) tries to get past Georgia State linebacker Jamil Muhammad (9) on a kick return during the first half of an NCAA football game Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Auburn, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
caption arrowCaption
Auburn cornerback Nehemiah Pritchett (18) tries to get past Georgia State linebacker Jamil Muhammad (9) on a kick return during the first half of an NCAA football game Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Auburn, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

Credit: AP

Jamil Muhammad’s college football journey has been anything but traditional.

Muhammad signed with Vanderbilt as a quarterback out of James Clemens High School in Madison, Ala., but transferred to Georgia State in 2019 after one season. Muhammad competed for the open quarterback slot with the Panthers during the summer, but was beaten out by Quad Brown, who was viewed as a long-term solution.

Not wishing to waste Muhammad’s athletic ability, he was asked to switch positions and move from playing quarterback to chasing quarterbacks at outside linebacker. After a year of on-the-job training, Muhammad has become a defensive fixture capable of making game-changing plays, which he did again Saturday in the 37-10 over Troy.

“He’s developed nicely,” Georgia State coach Shawn Elliott said. “When he came here, he was strong, he was physical. He loved the quarterback run. Before practice he’d tell me, ‘I want to be live today. I want to run over these guys.’”

It didn’t take long to see that Muhammad’s aggressive mind-set made him a better fit at linebacker.

“His mentality was not so much as quarterback, but as a linebacker,” Elliott said. “As a linebacker you strive off that energy of contact. It’s not easy to go from quarterback to linebacker. He had to learn a whole new game, and he’s done a nice job.”

Muhammad, a 6-foot-2, 230-pound sophomore, had his first sack against Texas State, but his most important sack came against Coastal Carolina. He knocked the ball free with a strip sack to set up a touchdown in Georgia State’s biggest win of the season and the program’s first against a nationally ranked team.

“It’s just hard work coming to fruition,” Muhammad said. “Hard work and teamwork. We have a great leaders in coach (Nate) Fuqua and coach Elliott, and we’re going to continue to get better.”

In the season finale against Troy, Muhammad had two sacks and returned a fumble 72 yards for a touchdown in the 37-10 win. It was the team’s first scoop-and-score of the season, and Muhammad reached in the stands afterwards to hand the football to his mother, Sabrina.

“He actually told me earlier in the week that he was going to get him some,” Elliott said. “He said, ‘I’ve got some more for you.’ And he delivered on what he said. He’s a man of his word.”

Muhammad helped the defense allow only 57 yards rushing against Troy. The Panthers are allowing 147 yards rushing per game, the third-lowest in program history.

Elliott and Muhammad have a unique relationship. Because Elliott is still an offensive line coach at heart, he will sometimes fill a vacancy on scout team during practice. That means the coach often gets down in the trenches trying to block Muhammad.

“Me and him are running our mouths back and forth,” Elliott said. “I’m trying to fuel him every single day. He gets mad at me, but it’s awesome to see that go from the practice field to the playing field, and that’s what it’s all about.”

But can the 48-year-old Elliott block the younger, 230-pound Muhammad?

“No,” Muhammad said. “No, no, no, no. ... Hey, listen, if he asks you, though, tell him I said ‘yes.’”

About the bowl: Georgia State (7-5) will learn of its bowl destination Sunday afternoon. While a return trip to the LendingTree Bowl in Mobile, Ala., remains a possibility, the Panthers are more likely to wind up in Camellia Bowl in Montgomery, Ala., on Christmas Day. Georgia State will be making its third consecutive bowl appearance and has been to a bowl game in four of Elliott’s five seasons.

About the Author

Editors' Picks