Corey Malone-Hatcher has already been going on unofficial visits for years.
Getting back to Notre Dame last weekend for Junior Day was similar to many of those trips, some of which the four-star junior defensive end from St. Joseph, Mich., started taking in eighth grade. But in other ways, this time around was different.
Malone-Hatcher was one of several top juniors on campus. Even so, Notre Dame made the trip feel like a personal experience.
“Although they had a bunch of recruits there, they made it feel like it was just for me,” Malone-Hatcher said. “I appreciate the efforts in that. The other thing is, I have a lot of friends that live on campus now. I know Daelin Hayes and Khalid Kareem … I have a lot of ties to the University at the moment. It’s really cool to know I would have a chance to play with those guys if I did end up going there.”
Current players weren’t the only people that made Malone-Hatcher feel more connected.
Defensive line coach and area recruiter Keith Gilmore checked in. Defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder talked scheme and system. Head coach Brian Kelly met with the family in a one-on-one session.
“I met with coach VanGorder for a clean hour or hour and a half,” Malone-Hatcher said. “Coach VanGorder again came to sit and had dinner with me. Met with coach Kelly for probably like 45 minutes to an hour. I spent most of the time on the visit by myself. There was a large group that was riding around in a bus but they were taking my around campus separate in a Yukon. I just had a really good time going more in-depth with it.”
VanGorder talked more in-depth about his defensive scheme and where Malone-Hatcher could fit. Turns out, there still might be more questions than answers.
Gilmore, VanGorder and Kelly want to see how Malone-Hatcher develops before picking a position. Or they might not track the 6-foot-3, 245-pound prospect into a single spot in favor of a more versatile approach.
“The message that they gave me is that they really don’t know where they want me at,” Malone-Hatcher said. “But it’d be more of an outside linebacker type role or a combined hybrid type role. Honestly, I feel like it’s going to be more of a hybrid type role. They just run so many different defenses and it’s such a multiple scheme, they try to personalize to every individual player’s strengths. You can’t really picture where you fit because they don’t ever run the same thing every week.”
Malone-Hatcher has heard several position possibilities from the programs involved in his recruitment. Alabama, Cincinnati, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisville, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Mississippi State, Nebraska, Ohio State, Penn State, Tennessee and Wisconsin are among the other offers.
Notre Dame, which has also offered, might not have had a specific answer, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
“I’ve gotten a lot of different answers as far as where I’m being recruited at and what they see me doing,” Malone-Hatcher said. “I feel they’re just super open with me and I appreciate that. They didn’t try to tell me what they thought I wanted to hear. They asked me what I wanted to play at the next level and I honestly didn’t know. The fact that they didn’t know and they gave me an honest answer. They like my strengths. They’re really recruiting me for my physical traits and not a certain position.”
Malone-Hatcher plans to keep investigating those possibilities through more research, likely with a spring practice visit to watch Gilmore and VanGorder work. Other visits likely to hit the schedule include Michigan, Alabama, Oklahoma and UCLA.
Right now the list remains wide open as Malone-Hatcher considers all options. He may trim his list after National Signing Day next week.
Class of 2017 prospects are about to take center stage once the seniors sign.
“We may cut the list down,” Malone-Hatcher said. “At this point, I don’t feel like there’s many offers I can pick up now that I’ll really be considering. I have a lot of the offers I was waiting for. There’s a few left. The Florida schools, I’d love to take a couple Texas schools into consideration. I feel like there’s a little bit more room as far as schools that can come in and make a big difference. But I may drop like a top eight or a top 10 in a month or so possibly.”