RECRUITING

'Crazy offseason' for local Notre Dame DE target Corey Malone-Hatcher

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

St. Joseph (Mich.) High School will find itself on the travel itineraries for a number of college football coaches this spring.

Michigan defensive line coach Greg Mattison and Michigan State offensive line coach Mark Staten stopped by the school Monday. Coaches from Notre Dame, other Big Ten powers and even the SEC also will likely make visits before the end of the NCAA evaluation period through the end of May.

The main attraction? Sophomore defensive end Corey Malone-Hatcher.

The 6-foot-3, 245-pound prospect has seen his recruiting stock shift from intriguing young player to coveted target in the past several months. After landing his first offer from Ohio State last July, Malone-Hatcher has staked a claim to 10 more scholarship offers. And he still hasn’t fully finished the first half of his high school career.

Malone-Hatcher averaged eight tackles and 1.5 sacks per game in his sophomore season. Since then he has worked to transform his body into a quarterback tracking device.

“I’ve completely evolved over the last six or seven months," said Malone-Hatcher, who has become increasingly more comfortable with interviews with the growing attention in the past year. “I’ve lived and died in the weight room. I know I’ll be able to make the right moves athletically. I want to make sure I have the mental aspect and get all my reads down and keep watching film so I can mentally be prepared for the games.”

Malone-Hatcher lifts with his teammates daily, attends a Pilates class multiple times a week and works with a speed trainer from Chicago.

“It’s been a crazy offseason,” Malone-Hatcher said off his workout regimen.

The same could be said about his recent recruiting timeline which has so far included February visits to Michigan State and Michigan; March offers from Tennessee, Mississippi State, Kentucky, Notre Dame and Alabama; and April return trips to Notre Dame and Michigan State.

Recruiting services have started to take notice. 247Sports slates Malone as a four-star recruit and the No. 8 weakside defensive end in the 2017 class. His performance at last weekend’s Rivals Camp in Cleveland should help him log a future rating from the website. Attending a Nike camp in May will likely impact his standing with Scout and ESPN.

Tennessee became the first SEC school to offer Malone-Hatcher, a milestone indicating the boundaries of his recruitment had started to stretch.

“I’m really grateful to know that it’s not only the Big Ten schools — which are great — but it’s also branching to schools nationwide as far as the top football programs and the top teams in the country starting to recognize me as a young talent with a lot of potential,” Malone-Hatcher said. “I’m grateful to have the opportunity. I don’t think anybody is going to deny that the SEC is probably the toughest football conference in the country. It’s definitely an honor.”

Alabama added its name to Malone-Hatcher’s offer list when he visited in late March. The distinction of claiming an offer from the Crimson Tide will likely be mentioned on his resume for the rest of his time as a high school football player.

“Alabama was actually the first college visit that I took in middle school,” Malone-Hatcher said. “That’s when they started recruiting me at an extremely young age. People that we knew, they were confused and didn’t understand what they could see in a middle-schooler. It was really a lot of fun going down there at a young age.”

Alabama’s long-term interest in Malone-Hatcher may stand out, but the constant interaction with local schools will continue to be a part of his process. New Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh made sure to reiterate a scholarship offer from the Wolverines when he took over the program.

Malone-Hatcher had hoped to get to Michigan for a basketball game or the spring game, but settled for a visit to meet Harbaugh in February. The conversation wasn’t exactly brief.

“We were probably talking to him for 35 minutes,” Malone-Hatcher said. “They showed me so much attention that I wondered if they had other kids they were supposed to talk to. It was a lot of fun. We got a love there.”

Notre Dame joined Malone-Hatcher’s offer list on March 21 after a meeting with head coach Brian Kelly. Malone-Hatcher was presented with a version of the written scholarship offer that he can’t officially receive until his senior season. With less than an hour drive separating his home from Notre Dame, Malone-Hatcher will be a regular visitor in South Bend between now and then.

His most recent trip to campus came earlier this month for the Blue-Gold Game. It only strengthened his notions of what the Irish can bring him as a college football player.

“It’s a great academic program. It’s an excellent football program. It has a unique combination that you don’t see in many schools around the country,” he said. “As of right now, we’re liking what we see and are really excited about the future.”

The race to land the four-star 2017 prospect is well underway, but the finish line sits way off in the distance. No one has jumped into the lead quite yet.

“Every school has things that are unique to them that they have to offer,” Malone-Hatcher said. “I’m really excited to keep taking the process and figuring out which school fits best for me and how I play. As of right now, we’re still really open. We still have a lot to figure out before we can set teams apart.”

Below are sophomore highlights of Malone-Hatcher.

tjames@ndinsider.com | 574-235-6214 | Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Sophomore defensive end recruit Corey Malone-Hatcher received a scholarship offer from Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly on March 21. (Photo provided)
Sophomore defensive end recruit Corey Malone-Hatcher claims nine scholarship offers: Notre Dame, Alabama, Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State, Louisville, Mississippi State, Tennessee, Iowa and Kentucky. (Photo courtesy of Rivals.com)