Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

Huskers Thankful to Land Mississippi Defensive Back Malcolm Hartzog After Secret Got Out

January 02, 2022

It’s really hard to find hidden gems in today’s world of recruiting. Players hit the camp circuit earlier than ever. The internet has made it easier to see prospects from around the country. The one thing that slowed that all down was how 2020 made it so that coaches couldn’t go out on the road. There were also no camps due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There were more kids than usual that were likely to fall through the cracks and become late senior risers.

Nebraska defensive back signee Malcolm Hartzog could be one of those players. Defensive coordinator Erik Chinander was very complimentary of Hartzog. He was asked about him on signing day.

“Malcolm, I think has unbelievable skill set,” Chinander said. “I was able to watch him practice. Becoming Mr. Football in Mississippi and also the MVP of the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star game. There are no slouches in that game. So that’s a big honor. I think he’ll give us a lot of good flexibility with positions.”

Coach Scott Frost gave Chinander credit for finding Hartzog in Mississippi. Scott Frost thinks that Hartzog can help the team as a cornerback and in the return game. The defender excelled in the return game during his senior year. He posted 403 yards on 11 kickoff returns. That’s a 36.6 average per return with six return touchdowns. He also chipped in five punt returns for scores. Hartzog was also dynamic on offense this year. He rushed for 1,231 yards and 28 rushing touchdowns.

Frost noted that Hartzog was a player that a lot of coaches in the south were mentioning to Chinander. It turns out Chinander was initially in the area to see a junior college player. Then he was taking a look at 2023 prospects because the numbers were fluctuating so much in the 2022 class. Players were leaving early for the NFL Draft or deciding to come back for a bonus year. It was unclear how many 2022 prospects the teams could take. But as Chinander made the rounds Hartzog’s name kept coming up.

“It seemed like every place I stopped they said ‘you know the best player in area is Malcolm Hartzog, you better go see this guy.’ It happened again. Then it happens again and then it happens again,” Chinander said. “I call back to the recruiting guys and I said I got to skip a couple of 2023’s. I got to go see what all these guys are talking about.”

Chinander made his way back to the junior college he initially visited. They asked him where he was going next and he said he was headed to Bassfield. They knew the secret was out. Chinander turned the car around to drive a couple hours. He watched Hartzog practice and get ready for a playoff game. The coach at Jefferson Davis High School is Lance Mancuso. He knows a thing or two about good football players.

“He’s had a lot of really good players,” Chinander said. “He’s got five current players I think playing in the NFL. I think that he knows a player when he sees one. He couldn’t speak more highly of this young man as a person and as a football player. Then you watch the film and you see the accolades and you watch him live. I just didn’t think we could miss on him”

Hartzog is the first player from Mississippi to sign with the Huskers since Byerson Cockrell in 2014. The Huskers feel like they got in just in time for a player who went well under the radar. There were a lot of suitors that called once Hartzog posted the Nebraska offer.

“To his credit and his high school coach’s credit, they did a great job of saying, ‘Hey, you guys missed out. He’s committed and he’s going to be a Husker.’ So, I was very thankful for that,” Chinander said. “I was very worried because once that thing got uncovered, sometimes it just takes one offer and the boulder just starts rolling down the mountain.”

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