The biggest adjustment for Malachi Holt-Bennett, at the beginning of his time as a Division I football player at Indiana University had little to do with the speed of the game or learning new things on the field.

Nope, it was a little closer to home.

"Funny thing, I tell everyone, you had to get used to their food up there," Holt-Bennett, a new arrival to the UAB football roster, said with a laugh. "They didn't have good barbecue or wings. They didn't have nothing like that. I had to eat Chick-fil-A every day."

Growing up in Birmingham, good barbecue was pretty much at arm's length. Apparently, the Fairfield High graduate couldn't find the same thing in Bloomington, Indiana.

Truth is, adjusting to college football, in general, took some work for the 6-foot-3, 190-pound former four-star recruit. He was a versatile performer at Fairfield, earning all-state honors as a senior in 2020. As a senior, he played wide receiver running back, defensive back, punter, and kick returner. During his junior season, he caught 45 passes for 821 yards with nine touchdowns. He was also a basketball standout.

Holt-Bennett was heavily recruited during his senior season. He nearly chose to stay home to play for UAB. Instead, though, he chose Indiana.

"Really, it was just being able to get out on my own, being my own person and going off somewhere," Holt-Bennett said. "I just wanted to learn new things, grow up faster, and not being at home depending on my parents."

The on-the-field adjustment was needed quickly.

"Coming out of high school, I really didn't know about coverages," Holt-Bennett said. "I had to learn a lot. Now, I've learned the routes and the coverages, and I can see what the coaches see."

Holt-Bennett played in eight games as a true freshman, with a lone catch resulting in a 29-yard touchdown play against Minnesota. Last season, he had six catches for 90 yards. His best game came in this last game in an Indiana uniform. He had three catches for 50 yards, with each catch resulting in a first down, against Purdue in the regular season finale.

He looked for a place where he could compete for more playing time and settled quickly on coming home to UAB.

Holt-Bennett joins a group of playmaking receivers. At 6-foot-3, he is one of the taller receivers for the Blazers. Quality depth won't be a problem for a group that is headed by returner Tejhaun Palmer. It's too early to figure out what the rotation will look like, but it's not too early to tell there is plenty of competition.

"I feel like it's going to push everyone harder to get some playing time," Holt-Bennett said. "Everyone just will compete and become a brotherhood. If we have players go down, the next guy will just step up. Everybody is similar. We just got to bring it every day."

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