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Ohio State well-positioned for four-star safety out west

The Buckeyes lengthy pursuit for one of the top defensive backs in the country could be paying off.

Zion Branch
Andrew Ivins, 247Sports

While the Buckeyes top-ranked 2022 recruiting class holds a healthy lead over Notre Dame and Penn State as of today, there is plenty of work that still needs to be done by Head Coach Ryan Day and the coaching staff. The good news is that they seem to be positioned nicely for one of their top remaining targets.


Buckeyes leading for Branch?

Ohio State has a host of talent already committed in the secondary featuring cornerbacks Jaheim Singletary (No. 13 overall), Terrance Brooks (No. 58), Jyaire Brown (No. 120), Ryan Turner (No. 370), and Kye Stokes (No. 415). While the expectation is that the Scarlet and Gray will need to keep their foot on the gas in these recruitments until the very end, the Buckeyes will also place emphasis on a couple of blue-chip players at the safety spot.

A common name that has been a long-time target is four-star safety Zion Branch of Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, Nevada. Ohio State jumped into the mix for the Branch back in May of last year when they extended an offer to the 6-foot-2, 190-pounder and ever since, the Buckeyes have certainly looked to have built a strong relationship with the west-coast talent.

So strong that two analysts from Rivals.com, Adam Gorney and Joseph Hastings, feel that Ohio State appears to be in the lead for his services. Gorney, the national recruiting director for the well-known outlet had this to say regarding Branch and the Buckeyes:

The four-star safety is not going to announce his commitment for a few months so lots of things could still happen – and five-star corner Domani Jackson is recruiting Branch hard to USC – but I get the sense that the Buckeyes do hold the edge right now. Relationships are going to play a huge factor in Zion Branch’s decision and he loves the Ohio State staff and they’re coming hard after him as well.

As briefly discussed, one of the Buckeyes biggest competitors for Branch will be Clay Helton and the Trojans. However, those aren’t the only programs that will battle to the very end for the nation’s fourth highest-ranked safety. Alabama, Clemson, and Oklahoma are the three other programs that found their way onto the Top 5 group revealed by Branch just four days ago.

As for how Hastings feels about the Buckeyes chances with Branch, he echoed optimism:

Ohio State was already viewed by some, including myself, as a top-two school before he officially visited the first weekend of last month, but they gained a lot of momentum during and after that visit. Branch said after the trip that he “fell in love” with the school, his interactions with the coaches and players went very well, and the future Buckeyes in attendance showed him love throughout the weekend.

All indications surely seem favorable for the good guys at this point. If they are able to come out victorious for his highly coveted pledge, it will certainly boost their chances with another Gael of Bishop Gorman — his younger brother Zachariah, a four-star wide receiver who secured an offer from the Buckeyes last month.


Quick Hits

  • Five-star 2023 quarterback Malachi Nelson of Los Alamitos (CA) will be announcing his commitment on Sunday, according to 247Sports. Despite the Buckeyes being included in Nelson’s group of top schools, Oklahoma is the favorite for the 6-foot-3, 180-pounder on the 247Sports Crystal Ball.
  • According to Brandon Huffman of 247Sports, Ohio State is showing interest in four-star 2023 linebacker Leviticus Su’a of Mater Dei (CA). “Ohio State is a new school talking with me a lot,” Su’a told Huffman. “Coach (Al) Washington has been talking with me and I know I would love to go out there and visit them.”
  • Four-star 2023 running back Justice Haynes of Blessed Trinity Catholic (GA) picked up an offer from Arizona on Tuesday. Haynes is one of five running backs to have already acquired an offer from Ohio State in the 2023 recruiting class.