Entering the weekend, Ohio State had only put out offers to a handful of in-state prospects that are apart of the 2023 recruiting class. However, recent developments on the coaching staff made it likely that another Ohio native would be well on his way to a adding an offer from the Buckeyes and it would all come to fruition on Saturday.
That was when the Buckeyes played host to one of the top junior standouts in the state in 2023 four-star athlete Malik Hartford of Lakota West (OH). Hartford, a West Chester native, made an unofficial visit to the Columbus campus and walked away with what should be considered an unsurprising offer from Ohio State.
The offer comes as no surprise as Hartford was considered a top target for the newly hired Perry Eliano during his time as the cornerbacks coach at Cincinnati. With the Buckeyes now poaching Eliano from the Bearcats and hiring him as safeties coach, it was expected that Hartford would ultimately see increased interest from Ohio State and an eventual offer to boot and it didn't take long for it to come. Now, I would say it is a safe bet to expect Hartford to be a priority recruit for Head Coach Ryan Day and the defensive coaching staff going forward.
After a great unofficial visit I’m blessed to receive an offer from THE Ohio State University‼️@CoachKee @Coach_Eliano @ryandaytime @CoachJimKnowles pic.twitter.com/HP1Xjg7NKD— Malik Hartford (@MalikHartford) January 22, 2022
All indications are that the visit was a massive success as hinted at from Hartford in the above tweet. The Cincinnati area standout also described the offer as "surreal" to Letterman Row's Jeremy Birmingham and added that he was "definitely excited" about landing the scholarship opportunity from the Buckeyes to Bill Kurelic if 247Sports.
Technically speaking, Hartford has plenty of time to dissect the programs recruiting him with signing day a ways away for the 2023 recruiting class. With that being said, I would put the Buckeyes right at the front of the line in this race and Eliano could be eyeing his first win as a Buckeye coach on the recruiting trail sooner rather than later.
Despite being listed as athlete on his 247Sports profile, the Buckeyes are indeed recruiting him as a safety in new defensive coordinator Jim Knowles' defense and with the preexisting bond built between Hartford and Eliano, you have to like the chances of the scarlet and gray in this race.
The 6-foot-3, 175-pounder has already seen offers from the likes of Boston College, Cincinnati, Iowa State, Kentucky, Louisville, Michigan State, Nebraska, Northwestern, Purdue, West Virginia, and more. But make no mistake about it, it's the blue blood offer from Ohio State that carries the most weight thus far on the offer sheet of Hartford.
The latest Ohio-born prospect to receive an offer from the Buckeyes currently stands as the 217th overall player in next year's cycle. Hartford is also penciled in as the 18th highest graded athlete in the class and perhaps most importantly, a top five player in the state.
If Ohio State ultimately pushes themselves ahead and lands Hartford, it would be the second consecutive class in which they land a prospect from Lakota West (OH). Just last cycle the Buckeyes pulled in a pair of blue-chip prospects from the Cincinnati area high school as four-star offensive tackle Tegra Tshabola and four-star cornerback Jyaire Brown inked with the program. Prior to last year, you have to go all the way back to the 2007 recruiting class to find the last time the Buckeyes pulled from the Firebirds.
In his most recent campaign at Lakota West, Hartford finished the season with 58 tackles, one sack, and two interceptions including a pick-six in a home contest against West Clermont (OH). Hartford and the Firebirds finished their season with an impressive 11-2 record that ultimately ended at the hands of Moeller (OH) in the division one regional final by a score of 21-17.