The Hartford Impact

There is still plenty of buzz coming out of the big recruiting weekend at Ohio State, but it was a prospect who wasn’t part of the weekend festivities that is the first to pull the trigger this month in four-star safety Malik Hartford. The priority in-state target out of West Chester (Ohio) Lakota West gave the Buckeyes his verbal pledge on Wednesday afternoon, adding yet another very talented prospect to Ohio State’s 2023 recruiting class.

What Ohio State is getting

Hartford is the consensus number two player in the state of Ohio for the 2023 recruiting class behind only recent O-Line pledge Luke Montgomery so this is an enormous in-state pick up for the Buckeyes. This was also a player who was Perry Eliano’s top target at his previous stop at the University of Cincinnati. Upon arriving at Ohio State, Eliano quickly went to work on Hartford, getting him offered by the Buckeyes and continuing to make him a personal priority of his.

When breaking down players, I always try to find areas of concern. Why would this prospect fail? What will be his down fall or what thing will he have to improve greatly in order to have success at the next level?

Those are tough questions to answer with Hartford. He has ideal size, he has cover skills, he has the speed/range to play free safety, and he’s a very physical football player. There aren’t many things to pick apart in his game and he has been a very impactful high school football player at one of the top programs in Ohio.

He’ll need to fill out a little bit and get stronger, but that is the easiest thing to fix in the transition from high school to college and it’s intriguing to see how another 15-pounds of muscle would elevate his game as he already plays a physical brand of football at just 175-pounds.

Athletically, Hartford probably falls somewhere in-between Malik Hooker and Jordan Fuller as a pure run-and-jump athlete. Both of those guys were tremendous players at Ohio State and got the job done in different ways. Hartford has the size, range, and cover skills to play any of the safety roles within the new defensive scheme and because of that, seems to be one of the safest bets among the players that the Buckeyes are recruiting in this class.

With Sonny Styles’ reclassification, Hartford will have a strong case as the top player in Ohio for 2023. While he hasn’t been in the spotlight as long as guys like Styles or Montgomery, this is not a commitment that should be taken for granted. Huge pick up for the Buckeyes here at a major area of need.

What it means for recruiting

There may not be a more important position group for Ohio State in this 2023 cycle than the safety position. While not often a position that is agonized over by recruiting followers, the Buckeyes find themselves in a tough spot here relative to the talent levels at other positions across the roster.

The Buckeyes are short on numbers at the safety spot as well, which means they will be taking at least three and potentially four safeties in this class. It seems like just yesterday that players like Lathan Ransom and Cameron Martinez were signed to the program but they are now entering their third seasons in Columbus, meaning they’ll be fourth-year players on their way out of the program when the class of 2023 prospects arrive.

Hartford and Cedrick Hawkins give the Buckeyes a great one-two punch to get things started, but there will certainly be more additions to this class. Right now, Plantation (Fla.) American Heritage star Daemon Fagan might be the player that the Buckeyes have the best chance to land. But national recruits like Caleb Downs and Joenel Aguero are also still in the picture and recently wrapped up strong visits to Columbus where the Buckeyes look to be very much in play.

It would be hard to believe that Ohio State would only take one of those players if the opportunity was there to get two.