When 2023 cornerback Sharif Denson received an Ohio State offer while attending a camp on June 16, he could hardly contain his excitement.
“It was definitely good, it was like the next step up from the offers that I had,” Denson told Eleven Warriors Tuesday. “It definitely meant a lot.”
The Bartram Trail High School (Jacksonville, Florida) standout said the Buckeyes are a legitimate option for him.
“They’re definitely in the mix,” Denson said. “But I haven’t talked to (Ohio State defensive backs coach Matt) Barnes, so I need to reach out to him.”
When Denson visited Columbus in June, he spoke with both Ohio State defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs and head coach Ryan Day. According to 247Sports’ composite rankings, Denson, a four-star recruit, is the 152nd-best player in the 2023 cycle and the 19th-best cornerback.
“I went in a room with coach Day and we talked about my play style and what he liked and all that,” Denson said. “And then he was like, ‘Yeah, you have an official scholarship offer here.’”
The main selling point for Denson with Ohio State was a storied past of successful defensive backs that eventually led to NFL opportunities. That’s what he wants for himself one day.
“They know what real DBs look like,” Denson said. “From the tools, to everything else you need to do. They know what an All-American looks like. If I go over there, in three or four years I’ll come out ready for the NFL.”
As we wrote in Monday’s Hurry-Up, Barnes likes defensive back recruits that have the versatility to play all over the field. From what the 5-foot-11, 170-pound Denson said, it seems like he’d profile as a cover safety in Ohio State’s defense. In his sophomore season, Denson had 52 total tackles (2 for loss) and one interception.
“I could really play anywhere on the field,” Denson said. “But I’m like a smaller height guy, so most teams are looking at me at like slot corner. That’s probably where they’re looking at me.”
Denson, who has 33 offers, said he only has one visit scheduled this fall: Florida State’s season opener against Notre Dame. He added he’d like to visit Columbus again in the future but noted it will probably not be this football season and more likely in the spring or summer of 2022.
Zion Branch schedules visit
One of Ohio State’s top safety prospects for the 2022 recruiting class is hoping to take another visit to Columbus.
It remains to be seen if the timing can work out, though. Zion Branch, the 50th-best player and the fourth-best safety in the cycle, told 247Sports this week he’s undecided on whether he’ll attend Ohio State’s game against Michigan State on Nov. 20, or if he’ll visit USC against UCLA on that same date. There’s also a chance the Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas, Nevada) standout could still be playing that day if his team qualifies for the Nevada state championship.
"I've definitely been thinking about the USC game versus UCLA in late November and also that Ohio State game versus Michigan State," Branch told 247Sports. "Right now we're just trying to see how my schedule is going to work out with things and potential game visits, but those are two I've definitely been looking at closely especially since I was able to take officials there already. Gathering more information and just getting to see teams up close will be important for me."
Even though Branch narrowed down his top five down to Ohio State, Alabama, Clemson, Oklahoma and USC on July 10, the thinking here is it will come down to OSU and USC for Branch. His decision is not particularly close to being made, as he plans to announce his plans at the Under Armour All-American game in January.
While he has used three official visits already on Ohio State, Oklahoma and USC in June, 247Sports reports he will also take official visits to Alabama and Clemson in November. Six Crystal Ball predictions have been made by 247Sports, with four analysts projecting him to end up at Ohio State and two prognosticating he’ll commit to the Trojans.
Zachariah Branch also may visit
Of course, Zion isn’t the only member of the Branch family Ohio State is heavily interested in.
According to 247Sports, Ohio State wide receivers coach Brian Hartline FaceTimed 2023 wide receiver target Zachariah Branch, the brother of Zion Branch, before his first game of his junior season.
"We connected with them and coach Hartline and I had a great talk,” Zachariah told 247Sports. “He was telling me about their scrimmage, how everything is going with their receivers and just checking in with me. I know they're doing big things in that room and coach Hartline believes I can be a big asset there in the future. That meant a lot, just getting to catch up with him and him making me a priority right before I got my own season started."
Branch is rated the 44th-best player and ranked the seventh-best receiver in the 2023 cycle. Zachariah told 247Sports he is considering tagging along with his brother to attend the Nov. 20 game against Michigan State if that is what the duo decide to do.
Like Zion, Zachariah also has strong ties to USC, as one Crystal Ball projection has the younger Branch playing for the Trojans. The Branch family's admiration for USC is also becoming quite noticeable on the pair's game days.
ZION and ZACHARIAH BRANCH Friday Night vs St. Louis— Scott Schrader (@Scott_Schrader) August 21, 2021
@USCScoop #FightOn pic.twitter.com/XdHVImrCbM