It is no secret that for Ohio State, when it comes to recruiting the best players from inside Ohio’s borders, the plan has always been to keep the top in-state talent at home and playing in the scarlet and gray. Does it always work out that way? No. But more often than not, the program has had success in doing so.
It was just three months ago that five-star safety Sonny Styles of Pickerington Central (OH) was the leader in the clubhouse for top in-state target for Ohio State in the 2023 recruiting class. But the 6-foot-4, 215-pounder had different plans and decided to reclassify becoming a member of the 2022 cycle and inking with the program in mid-December.
With that turn of events, four-star offensive tackle Luke Montgomery of Findlay (OH) became the top prospect in the state. Of course that would ultimately pay dividends as Montgomery, the No. 4 offensive tackle in the class, went on to end his recruitment this past Thursday as he gave his verbal pledge to newly hired offensive line coach Justin Frye and Ohio State.
So the question now is simple, who's the next in-state priority for the Buckeyes in the 2023 class?
Technically, the next highest graded Ohio prospect after Montgomery would be four-star defensive lineman Brenan Vernon of Mentor (OH). However, since the 6-foot-5, 275-pounder chose Notre Dame over Ohio State back in June, the Buckeyes discontinued their pursuit of the Fighting Irish pledge who currently comes in as the No. 62 overall prospect in the class.
That leaves two specific names that should be considered as the top in-state target going forward and both present compelling reasons as to why they should be at the top of the Buckeyes’ board.
The two prospects are four-star safety Malik Hartford of Lakota West (OH) and four-star interior offensive lineman Austin Siereveld of Lakota East (OH). Both are prospects that already hold offers from Ohio State and also recently revealed lists of their top schools. Unsurpringsly, the Buckeyes were included in both Lakota players’ lists.
In the case of Hartford, Ohio State has revamped the majority of their defensive coaching staff as they look to get the unit back to the level that they need to be at in order to compete for championships.
One part of that change was the welcome addition of safeties coach Perry Eliano, who came over from Cincinnati. Fortunately for the Buckeyes, it has been noted time and time again that Hartford was Eliano's top 2023 target while a part of Luke Fickell's Bearcat coaching staff.
Quickly following the addition of Eliano, the Buckeyes wasted little time making a move on the West Chester native. The jump up the OSU board shows just how much the new OSU staff likes the trajectory of Hartford's development and what he could become in Columbus.
As for Siereveld, the offensive line group has been more than fine on the field in previous years. However, the level of talent wasn't been what it could or should have been under Greg Studrawa. Perhaps with Frye now leading the unit, that will change.
But nevertheless, Sievereld is a home grown prospect that has programs like Alabama, Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Penn State, and more interested enough in the No. 23 IOL in the class to send him a scholarship offer. Can you afford to let him walk?
Regardless, Ohio State does sit in a favorable position for the pair as they are currently the favorite to land both four-star prospects on the 247Sports Crystal Ball.
Not to be forgotten, we should mention four-star wide receiver Anthony Brown out of Springfield (OH), despite the fact that he has not yet garnered an offer from the Buckeyes. Brown, who Ohio State is still showing interest in, comes in as a top five player in the state and is now back on the market after stepping off of his previous commitment to Minnesota. If nothing else, keep an eye on Brown going forward as we wait to see if Brian Hartline and the Buckeyes turn up the heat or not.