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Column: Ohio State hopes their plan at running back in 2023 begins on Tuesday

The Buckeyes look to begin their quest for a backfield pairing early this week with a top target set to decide.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 23 Ohio State at Indiana Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

As a new week has arrived, Ohio State could be well on their way to picking up pledge No. 7 in the 2023 recruiting class. For now, the Buckeyes have three commitments on each side of the ball, but in just a matter of days, another offensive blue-chip could be headed to Columbus to suit up for running backs coach Tony Alford.

It was just nine days ago that 2023 four-star running back Mark Fletcher of American Heritage (FL) made his way to the Buckeye State to get an in-person view of what Ohio State has to offer. By all accounts it was a visit that went well for the 6-foot-1, 225-pounder, who has since raved about the visit.

In a brief discussion with 247Sports, Fletcher broke down how the visit with the Buckeyes went.

That was the last place I visited. Coach [Tony] Alford, I love the way he approached me and the conversation that we had. I could tell that he’s different from a lot of coaches and everybody that has met him has had nothing but great words to say about him. He can develop me and get me to the next level.

Fletcher has also made stops at Central Florida, Miami (FL), Michigan, and USC this year. However, as mentioned above, the Buckeyes got the most recent visit from the Fort Lauderdale native, which could bode well for their chances.

Come Tuesday, Fletcher will ultimately be announcing between Miami (FL), Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State. The declaration will take place on CBS Sports HQ at 6:30 PM EST. However, coming into today, it is the Buckeyes who hold the advantage on the 247Sports Crystal Ball for Fletcher. Andrew Ivins, Bill Kurelic, and Steve Wiltfong are among the highly respected recruiting analysts penciling in the Sunshine State tailback to make Columbus his new home after his senior season as a Patriot.

As a junior, Fletcher compiled 779 rushing yards and punched in 13 touchdowns. The impressive campaign helped propel him to No. 153 prospect overall in his class and the eighth-highest graded running back that the cycle has to offer.

Mark Fletcher
Andrew Ivins, 247Sports

The aforementioned Ivins, who spends a lot of time in the Florida scene, compares him to current Baltimore Ravens running back Gus Edwards, and delivered a scouting report on what the Buckeyes, Hurricanes, Nittany Lions, or Wolverines will be adding to their program on Tuesday. Among the notable highlights are the following:

A big, physically imposing back that has produced for three straight years at one of South Florida’s top NFL factories in American Heritage. Owns a bit of an up-right run style, but is very difficult to bring down in the open field once he’s got a full head of steam with the combination of his size and power. Is quick to hit the hole and does a nice job of using swift cuts to evade would-be tacklers. Can also get out of trouble with a stiff arm here and there. [...] Put up monster numbers as a sophomore eclipsing the 100-yard mark rushing in nine games, but missed some time as a junior due to injury as he has dealt with some shoulder issues. Should be viewed as a bit of a throwback running back that thrives in short-yardage situations and can make an impact on third downs as a pass blocker or pass catcher...

Regardless of what happens with Fletcher in a couple of days, expect Ohio State to still pursue a host of other running backs as the program is eyeing a haul that includes a pairing in the backfield for Alford. Among the candidates that could fill that void and join Fletcher, if he ultimately chooses the Buckeyes, include four-star running back Cedric Baxter Jr. of Edgewater (FL), four-star running back Justice Haynes of Blessed Trinity Catholic (GA), five-star running back Richard Young of Lehigh Senior (FL), and more.

Perhaps an added bonus if it is head coach Ryan Day and the Buckeyes as the beneficiary of Fletcher's announcement is that he is teammates with five-star wide receiver Brandon Inniss, the No. 1 pass catcher in the country whom Brian Hartline is trying his hardest to steal from the waiting arms of Lincoln Riley.