Notre Dame is in need of a receiver who’s a deep threat with the speed to break a game wide open. One option they’ve pursued to fill that void is Gallatin, Tenn. product Josh Malone. The 2014 recruit is not only a speedster, but he has the size to take advantage of undersized defensive backs. Malone has been on fire with the attention he’s receiving from college coaches across the country and to date can boast almost 30 scholarship offers. Some of the schools interested in retaining his services are South Carolina, Florida, LSU, and UCLA. Although he hasn’t named any favorites yet, Rivals.com reported in January that he likes what he sees from Notre Dame, Ohio State, Vanderbilt, and Tennessee.
Malone made a splash at the beginning of the year when he was named the US Army Junior Combine Offensive MVP in San Antonio.
The Station Camp High School star provides a big target to his quarterback and stands 6-foot-3 while weighing 190 pounds. I’ve seen him on film as a player and interviewee and there’s no doubt that his height in legitimate. He’s a good looking player who passes the eye test and gives you a sense of confidence when he’s lined up that good things are going to happen. He may not be done growing either and there’s a real possibility he could sprout to 6-foot-4 or 6-foot-5 by the time he turns 19 or 20.
He has the frame to put on another 15 to 20 pounds of muscle, which would help make him more durable and more difficult to jam in press coverage. Gaining the right kind of weight is a priority for him and he hopes to be up to 200 pounds by the time his senior season starts next fall. If he’s able to maintain his speed at 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds he’ll be a tremendous weapon for whichever program is lucky enough to sign him.
Malone has really good speed and everywhere I checked had him listed at somewhere in the low-4.4’s for his 40-yard dash. Whatever speed he has on the track transfers to the field too, as there were numerous examples on film of him breaking into the open field and running away from would-be tacklers. He also blew the doors off a few defensive backs on deep routes and by the time the ball was thrown to him he had at least four steps on the cornerback. There is no doubt he has the deep threat speed I mentioned earlier.
I was impressed with his explosion off the ball and how his movements are always going forward. There aren’t a whole lot of false steps or rocking backwards at the snap – everything is downhill right away so he can take advantage of his speed and immediately put pressure on whoever is covering him.
Malone has some nice open field moves and although he isn’t as shifty or elusive as some of the shorter receivers in his class, he can still break free when he needs to. He can bob and weave his way through a defense, even if that means cutting across the teeth of the pursuit to find room to run. He’s light on his feet and able to cut quickly and sharply whether he’s running a route or with the ball.
I don’t believe his strength is a trait that sets him apart from anyone, but at the same time it’s certainly not a weakness. There nothing in his game that he doesn’t accomplish due to not having enough strength. He can get off press coverage, block, and at times can be difficult to tackle. As he gains weight his strength will improve as well and he’ll become an even more complete player.
Malone has a good set of hands and seems to be a reliable pass catcher whether he’s in traffic or running the deep fade. He has a slight tendency of letting the ball get into his body, but that wasn’t often and can be easily remedied. Most of the time his hands are extended away from his body when making a catch, which leaves him in good shape to immediately secure the ball. In fact, he does a great job of protecting the football after a catch. Many high school (and even college) wide receivers don’t tuck the ball into their body the way they should, which leaves them vulnerable to fumbling.
He’s not just about running fade routes and even though he has a knack for getting open deep, he has all the routes in his repertoire. His quick game routes are precise and his angles are clean. He can run underneath routes and deep hitches or posts as well. He’s proven himself to be more than just a deep threat with his ability to run multiple patterns that play off his primary talent. He seems to have the cornerback on his heels most of the time and the bigger cushion Malone gets the more valuable his short and intermediate routes become.
With his speed he’s also an accomplished kick returner who made several big plays in that regard on film. He’s doesn’t do a whole lot of dancing around after he catches the kick – it’s just straight ahead running and hitting any seam he finds at full speed. All he needs is a crease and if he hits it in stride only the kicker will be able to save a touchdown.
Malone is good sized receiver who has game changing speed that would fit in nicely with Notre Dame’s offensive personnel. The need for a deep threat in any offense is a must and Malone offers that plus a whole lot more. He runs good routes, has nice hands, and can get yards after the catch. I see him as an outside receiver who can threaten a secondary and invite double-teams, which would create opportunities for other players as well. The Irish faithful should be excited that a player with this kind of talent has Notre Dame on his radar.
Size: 88 (good height and bulk – will get even bigger)
Strength: 80 (has enough to get the job done)
Speed: 90 (runs really well – deep threat all the way)
Athletic Skills: 80 (agile and quick in the open field, explosive off the line)
Technique: 85 (routes are solid, good hands)
Versatility: 80 (runs all the routes, can returns kicks)
Upside: 4 (has a chance to see the field early with his speed and size)
Overall Grade: 4
90-100 – Elite/Exceptional: Skill set is rare and gives prospect ability to dominate
80-89 – Very Good/Outstanding: Skill set is a significant strength
70-79 – Average: Skill set is solid, not a significant weakness
60-69 – Below Average: Skill set is not a strength for this player and could become a liability
50-59 – Very Poor: Prospect does not possess this trait and it is a definite liability
OVERALL/UPSIDE GRADE KEY
5 – Elite: Player is one of the best players at his position nationally, potentially dominant
4 – Very Good/Outstanding: Player is a potential standout and starter, could also play early
3 – Solid: Player is a potential contributor, could eventually start down the road
2 – Below Average: Player does not possess the talent to be a significant contributor
1 – Poor: Let’s be honest, Notre Dame is not going to bring in anyone with a one!