On Friday night, rain and lightning polluted the Michigan skies and forced the St. Joseph’s (Mich.) tilt with Richland (Mich.) Gull Lake over to the next afternoon. On Saturday afternoon, a clear forecast complimented a 34-12 St. Joseph’s victory.
In the make-up game, sophomore Corey Malone-Hatcher shined bright on many occasions, recording seven tackles, one sack and one tackle for loss as he propelled the Bears to a comfortable victory.
At 6-foot-3 and 235-pounds, Malone-Hatcher has received a laundry list of high division one attention at the defensive end position. His performance Saturday afternoon, however, came from another position.
“This year I am playing at tight end and middle linebacker,” Malone-Hatcher told GoBlueWolverine. “Last year I played at defensive end on varsity and on JV, but our former coach Elliot Uzelak, he’s still around the program. So he kind of came in and gave his insight about how the defense is looking with the strengths and the weaknesses. The idea was with me being one of the top athletes on our defense and being able to matchup size-wise with pretty much anybody on the field, he wanted to put me on showcase in the middle of the defense to make more plays… They wouldn’t be able to try to game plan against me or my side anymore.”
To combat teams running plays away from his side, Malone-Hatcher shifted back to the linebacking unit. Although only a sophomore, Malone-Hatcher has already witnessed opponents actively designing plays away from his direction on the defensive line.
“That was a lot of what we saw when I was on JV and varsity last year,” explained Malone-Hatcher. “Most teams would just avoid running to my side. I could track down some plays from the back, but it kind of took me out of the play. This change to middle linebacker kind of negates that and it gives me the opportunity to make more plays and still make the plays in the backfield.”
As evidenced by his play on Saturday night, it is a change that the highly regarded prospect has adapted well to.
“It’s been pretty fast actually,” Malone-Hatcher said. “I picked it up a lot easier than I thought I would. I kind of struggled with it in the beginning because I was training to be a defensive end, so I was like playing middle linebacker is just not what I’ve been around. I envisioned myself playing outside linebacker a little bit, and I could use a lot of my training at defensive end for that, but I couldn’t imagine myself playing at middle linebacker because it’s not an edge rush anymore and its not the same type of skill set.”
As a result, Malone-Hatcher had to acclimate himself for unnatural waters with his hand off the grain, lined up with the linebackers.
“Once I started focusing and relying on my football smarts, it all started to click for me right around two-a-days. The coaches saw the progression. I broke the starting lineup pretty early for the linebacking corps and I’ve just been progressing since.”
This progression was put on display against Gull Lake as Malone-Hatcher displayed good closing speed in the open field and was quick to fill gaps around the line of scrimmage.
“I was always within the vicinity of the play, but that was my first time ever reading running backs so I felt like I played slow,” said Malone-Hatcher. “As I watched the film and graded myself, I think I was being a little bit tough on myself because our D-Line was swarming the ball, but I was definitely in the position to make a lot of plays. I think I did a good job of making my reads, making them quick, and even if I didn’t go to the perfect spot every time I was doing it at 100 miles per hour most of the time.”
Malone-Hatcher pulled in his first offer from Ohio State four days after attending the Friday Night Lights camp in late July. The Buckeyes are among a plethora of strong football programs recruiting Malone-Hatcher.
“Recently it’s been a lot from Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State. I’ve been hearing from Alabama quite a bit and Notre Dame gas been pretty active,” said Malone-Hatcher. “Over the offseason we also heard from Penn State, Clemson, Florida State so it’s all been pretty active lately.”
Notre Dame played host to Malone-Hatcher just hours after his game Saturday and he was able to take in the Fighting Irish’s 31-0 victory over Michigan in South Bend, Ind.
“I had the privilege to experience the atmosphere of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in a live setting for the first time,” said Malone-Hatcher. “That was my first game at Notre Dame. It was definitely great seeing how the crowd integrated and how the stadium atmosphere was during the game. It definitely got hype. They had a reason to, though. They were playing great. They played a solid game on offense and defense and it was a fun trip overall.”
The losers in that bout, the Michigan Wolverines, are also heavily recruiting Malone-Hatcher, who took an unofficial visit over the summer for the Barbecue at the Big House, a yearly recruiting bonanza.
“Michigan was amazing,” said Malone-Hatcher. “They really rolled out the red carpet the last time we were there for the barbecue. We got to eat some great food. We were a part of the first time doing the A-Maize-Ing Race, which was an interesting competition and a tour at the same time around campus. We had to find landmarks and major parts on campus for pre-game and just regular life on campus. It was fun competing with the guys and being able to check out parts of campus that we haven’t seen on previous visits.”
Out of all the different aspects of Michigan’s campus that Malone-Hatcher was able to experience, his most memorable moment is designated for the relationship that his mother forged with the Wolverines’ coaching staff and family.
“Probably seeing how my mom interacted with the coaches and coaches wives,” said Malone-Hatcher. “She had a great time. She loves the coaching staff and my whole family loves the coaching staff. My mom especially loves the coaches’ wives. They had a lot of fun together all night.”
As an attendee of the exclusive Barbecue at the Big House recruiting event, Malone-Hatcher is high on Michigan’s board at the position. The coaching staff has conveyed this as well, indicating that an offer could be on the way.
“They said it shouldn’t be long,” said Malone-Hatcher. “They wanted to see how I perform on the field because they haven’t seen a lot of varsity tape for me. They said that they will try to get to one or two games through the season so they can finish up the rest of the evaluating but they loved how I performed at the camp.”
Malone-Hatcher Plays Big, Talks Recruiting
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