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The next in-state prospect most likely to commit to Ohio State

Dynamic safety Malik Hartford looks to be the next big in-state priority for the Buckeyes.

Malik Hartford
247sports

Thanks to the Luke Montgomery’s commitment to the Buckeyes just last week, it looks like Ohio State’s 2023 class is ready to take off. Landing the top in-state player at a position of importance is always a key priority for the staff, but getting Montgomery in the fold as both a local and vocal player gives the Buckeyes another peer recruiter that can help build this class into a national power. As seen last year with the likes of C.J. Hicks, the Buckeyes lean on these guys to communicate to other top players on their board, and now it’s Luke’s turn.

Ohio State’s recruiting strategy is always going to be nationwide. Thanks to their brand, success, and other endless reasons, the coaching staff is always going to be able to bring in elite national targets, and that of course is going to be the same in the 2023 class as well.

On the flipside, what Ryan Day and the rest of the staff wants to do is continue keeping their best players at home. Every year under Day, the Buckeyes have been able to keep the top player in Ohio for their college career, and that’s a must. Landing that top player as well as surrounding them with multiple other top in-state guys has been the strategy all along, and when the recruiting ground is as fertile as it is within the Ohio border, it just makes sense.

At five commitments right now for the 2023 class, it’s only a matter of time before the numbers start to climb. As seen before, the Buckeyes have a tendency to land commitments in spurts, and with spring football coming up and the chance for high profile recruits to get to campus, it could very well be sooner rather than later for who will be next in line. The only question of course is who that will be.

Whether it will be a more national name or an in-state player, that’s anybody’s guess, but if the next commitment does come from Ohio, in this respect, the sights are set on Malik Hartford.

Hartford likely next in line for OSU in-state commitment

Simply put, you’d think that the obvious choice for the next in-state player to commit to Ohio State would be the top remaining player on the board. Currently, Malik Hartford is Ohio’s fourth ranked player, and with the Buckeyes having two of the top three ranked in-state players already committed, Hartford is the next priority for the coaching staff.

A 6-foot-3, 175 pound athlete out of Lakota West, Malik is the No. 17 safety in the country and the No. 167 player nationally per the 247Sports Composite. Perfect timing really, Ohio State really needs to improve in the defensive secondary, especially at safety. Having an in-state player that is this highly ranked at the position bodes well for the Buckeyes, and certainly makes Hartford that much more important to the class overall.

What may be the most impressive aspect of Hartford is the last couple of months of his recruiting process. In just a month’s timespan, Hartford received big time offers from Northwestern, Notre Dame, Michigan, Michigan State, Tennessee, and of course Ohio State to go along with the other nearly 25 schools that have offered. On his offer list alone, it shows the caliber of player he is and how fast his recruitment blew up.

Predicting a timeline for a decision

With Jim Knowles taking over the defense, there may not be a position more important than safety for Ohio State. Knowing coach Knowles likes to use three-safety looks in his scheme, the Buckeyes need a bevy of players at that spot even though each safety may play a different role and have a different body type for what they’ll be asked to do. In Malik’s case, a 6-foot-3 frame is going to do wonders defending the pass game, and obviously the Buckeyes could improve in that sense.

Recruiting followers are always going to want to know when the next commitment will come, and in regard to Hartford it’s not set in stone. On Feb. 11, Malik took to his twitter account to release a list of seven schools he was still considering. Making the cut included Ohio State, Cincinnati, Michigan State, West Virginia, Notre Dame, Kentucky, and Michigan. More importantly, Hartford listing that top seven also pointed out that he’d be narrowing it down even further with a top three schools list as he put it, “soon”.

While a commitment date hasn’t been set, seeing Hartford get down to a top seven and then share that he’d be down to a top three soon enough shows that he’s quickly going through the process and getting closer to making the final decision.

Odds are Ohio State will be in that top three, and if we’re being honest, with how crucial safety is to the class and Hartford being an in-state player that’s seeing his stock really start to raise, the Buckeyes will make him a top priority until he’s in the fold. It’s not a done deal, but if the next commitment is an in-state product, the momentum looks to be in favor of that pledge coming from Malik Hartford.

To see what Hartford could bring to the table, take a look at his latest highlight film below.