Ohio State’s 2023 class is off to a good start, but it was lacking a prospect at one of the offensive skill positions to get the ball rolling on that front. That all changed on Tuesday afternoon, as the Buckeyes added an elite running back to the fold.
Four-star running back Mark Fletcher has committed to Ohio State, he announced live on CBS Sports HQ. The 6-foot-1, 225-pound prospect comes in as the No. 8 RB and the No. 153 player in the class overall.
Fletcher was a name that not many Ohio State recruiting fans were likely keyed in on until a few weeks ago. The American Heritage product was one of the many big names in attendance for the Buckeyes’ Student Appreciation practice, which provided not only a chance for the coaching staff to get in players’ ears but also a chance to get a feel for just how much the OSU student body shows out for its football team. The atmosphere appeared to go over incredibly way for many of the guys in attendance, and Fletcher is the first of that group to pull the trigger.
It wasn’t too long after his visit that Fletcher announced both his scheduled commitment date and his top four schools, which consisted of Miami, Michigan, Penn State, and of course the Buckeyes. Ohio State had offered Fletcher back in January, and the program had a long way to go to beat out the in-state Hurricanes, who looked to be the early leader in his recruitment. In the end, it becomes a huge win for Tony Alford, who continues his dominance in the state of Florida by landing a big fish in what will likely be a two-running back class when all is said and done.
In speaking about his finalists, this is what Fletcher had to say about Ohio State:
“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.”
The seventh member of Ohio State’s 2023 class, the Fort Lauderdale native becomes the second Floridian to commit to the Buckeyes in this cycle, alongside safety Cedric Hawkins. Overall, he currently owns the fourth-highest grade among this group of OSU commits, and his pledge moves Ohio State’s class up to the No. 6 spot in the country with plenty of work still to be done. As previously stated, he is the first commit at an offensive skill position in this cycle, joining offensive linemen Luke Montgomery and Joshua Padilla as well as tight end Ty Lockwood.
Fletcher put together a dominant campaign in his sophomore season at American Heritage, toting the rock for over 1,400 yards on seven yards per carry with 11 touchdowns. He put up over 100 yards in nine games that season, and for the year averaged 108 yards per game over 13 contests. His junior season was shortened a bit by a shoulder injury, but he still managed to total 779 yards on 7.1 yards per carry with 13 touchdowns in only eight games played. He hasn’t been asked to do a ton in the passing game as a bigger back, but he has managed to haul in 33 passes for 472 yards and three scores in his first three seasons for the Patriots.
Drawing a comparison to Baltimore Ravens running back Gus Edwards, here is some of what 247Sports analyst Andrew Ivins had to say of Fletcher’s game:
“A big, physically imposing back that has produced for three straight years at one of South Florida’s top NFL factories in American Heritage. [...] 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. [...] Has also proven to be rather effective in pass protection as he can chip large defenders while buying time for his quarterback. [...] 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. [...] Must stay healthy, but has what it takes to be a reliable ball carrier at a major Power 5 program.”
Surely of note to Ohio State’s coaching staff, Fletcher did not make his trip to Columbus alone. He came as part of a loaded group of talent that all play for the South Florida Express 7-on-7 team. This includes many top targets for the Buckeyes, including 2023 five-star wide receivers Carnell Tate and Brandon Inniss as well as four-star DBs Daemon Fagan and Sharif Denson and 2024 five-star receivers Jeremiah Smith and Joshisa Trader. With Fletcher now in the fold and Ohio State already in the lead for a handful of those guys, Ryan Day and his staff will be hoping he can do some peer recruiting of his own and help bring some of his prep teammates with him to the next level.
There is still lots of work to be done in the 2023 class, but landing Fletcher is a big get for both coach Alford and Ohio State at large. Fletcher is a darn good player, and would be a perfect compliment to someone like top target Richard Young should the Buckeyes land the highly-touted five-star prospect. In addition, Ohio State was already viewed as the favorite for a handful of Fletcher’s 7-on-7 teammates, so having him get in their ear certainly won’t hurt matters either. All in all this is an exciting commitment for the Buckeyes, and with another big recruiting weekend coming up with the spring game, it could be the start of more to come here in the very near future.