Ohio State is busy putting the finishing touches on its 2022 recruiting class. While trying to close out another elite class, the team is also focused on its upcoming Rose Bowl game against Utah. With the Buckeyes done with the early signing period, the staff has also started shifting focus towards next year’s class.
Branch to announce this week
All 18 of the members of Ohio State’s 2022 recruiting class signed with the Buckeyes during the Early Signing Period. Because of this, Ohio State has been able to shift even more focus towards its 2023 class.
The class already has verbal commitments from both four-star tight end Ty Lockwood and four-star OL Joshua Padilla. However, the Buckeyes will also hope to add to this class later this week as five-star wide receiver target Zachariah Branch is set to make his announcement on Christmas Eve.
The Buckeyes are one of four schools still competing for his services, alongside USC, Alabama and Oklahoma. While Ohio State was viewed as the favorite to land Branch earlier in his recruitment, it seems as if USC is now the favorite to earn a commitment from Branch on Friday.
Branch’s older brother, and one-time 2022 Ohio State safety target, Zion Branch, committed to the Trojans during the early signing period, and it appears as if Zachariah will join him in a matter of days. However, the Buckeyes are holding out for last-second surprise.
Branch has long been interested in the Buckeyes, and has on multiple times noted the program’s ability to produce NFL talent at the position. He spoke with Greg Biggins of 247Sports recently regarding his final four schools, and had the following to say about Ohio State:
“I’ve been to Ohio State twice and like it there a lot. Every one I’ve met there is very genuine. From the coaches to the players to the support staff, every one has always been so welcoming to me and my family. They have a great track for getting guys to the League (NFL) as well and on my last visit, they were able to show me the offense and how well I would fit in. They see me playing a similar role to Jaxon Smith-Njigba and I like the all around fit a lot.”
Additionally, the aforementioned Ohio State 2023 TE commit, Ty Lockwood, was quick to jump in Branch’s mentions following his announcement of a commitment date.
Branch has also made it known that he wants to make a decision early so he can become a recruiting leader for his school of choice. However, that looks to benefit the Trojans more than the Buckeyes, as they have quickly jumped into the driver’s seat of his recruitment. Since December, multiple 247Sports Crystal Ball predictions have come in for USC when it comes to Branch. Combined with Zion Branch’s recent signing with the Trojans, it would be very surprising to see Zachariah not join his brother in California.
If Branch decides to spurn Lincoln Riley, his brother, and the USC program, Ohio State would likely be the decision — but that is certainly a lot for Ohio State to overcome. However, Ryan Day and the Buckeyes are prepared if USC is the school of choice for Branch.
Branch is the No. 2 WR in the 2023 class and is the No. 14 overall prospect. He is also the No. 1 prospect from the talent-rich state of Nevada.