Corey Malone-Hatcher is starting to take his recruitment into a new level of detail.
No longer is the four-star junior defensive end from St. Joseph, Mich., worried about surface issues. Instead he’s diving specifically into schemes and how different coaching staffs want to use his skill set. Some suitors have a concrete plan. Others see options.
“I’ve got like four different positions that schools have talked to me about playing,” Malone-Hatcher said. “I’ve had schools that have talked to me about playing tight end as well as on defense. I don’t know if I really buy into that just because you don’t really see many two-way players anymore. There’s no need for me to play tight end really … but it still really cool for them to bring it up. The wide spread just kinda caught me off guard. I want to weigh all my options, so I think that’s my next step.”
Notre Dame pitched Malone-Hatcher a few different ideas last weekend during his latest unofficial visit with four different coaches checking in.
Recruiting coordinator and linebackers coach Mike Elston saw a potential fit within his position group. Keith Gilmore, area recruiter and defensive line coach, felt the same about his unit. Defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder talked more big picture.
Malone-Hatcher also met with head coach Brian Kelly along the way.
“I like the direction they’re heading,” Malone-Hatcher said. “We talked some position-specific stuff. The way they’re planning to use me, I honestly don’t think they know yet. I talked to coach Elston and he was saying they like how I look at linebacker, kinda natural. Coach Gilmore, he was presenting me with defensive end, defensive line pass rush stuff.
“Then coach VanGorder came over and he said point blank they don’t have the guys on the team right now that they’re looking for at my position to be able to run the kind of defense they’re looking for. They’re limited in some of the packages they can put in. He believes I’d fit in perfectly as far as my skill set and body type in that position.”
Notre Dame last hosted Malone-Hatcher in September for the season opener and before that over the summer for the Irish Invasion. But this stop in South Bend struck a different tone as the Class of 2017 starts to get closer to taking center stage in the recruiting landscape.
Malone-Hatcher has started to notice peers coming off the board, including those he’s met during previous visits.
“I’ve had a lot of friends that have started committing recently,” he said. “I met up with Najee Harris, who’s committed to Alabama. I know him. I know Brock Wright, the tight end that’s committed to Notre Dame. I know Robert Beal. I keep up with all of them. I guess it has an impact but ultimately I wanna go to the school that’s best for me. Naturally, like any recruit, I wanna be in contention for a championship.”
Patience remains the plan for now as Malone-Hatcher is yet to schedule more game visits, although he could take in the Michigan-Ohio State game later this month. Both those programs have offered along with Michigan State, UCLA, Alabama, Iowa and several others.
He remains focused mostly on rehab after ankle surgery cost him most of this season. Malone-Hatcher chose not to play through the pain, which had dogged him long term, in favor of getting it fixed once and for all.
“Really it was one of those decisions where I deferred to the people that were more wise than me in that situation,” he said. “When they said it was the best route to take, the safest route to take as far as my future and my career, I’m not gonna say it was easy but I trusted them. That’s just been the biggest thing. They wouldn’t try to sabotage me in anyway, so I didn’t have any issue with doing it.”