The Hurry-Up: Five-star Linebacker Malik Bryant Very Interested in Ohio State, Cedric Baxter Jr. Picks Up Offer from Buckeyes

By Garrick Hodge on September 6, 2021 at 5:30 pm
Malik Bryant

Five-star IMG Academy linebacker Malik Bryant knows about Ohio State all too well.

His high school coach, former Ohio State linebacker Pepper Johnson, tells him all the time about what it’s like playing for the Buckeyes.

“Yes sir, a lot,” Bryant said after IMG Academy’s 58-0 win over Bishop Sycamore on Aug. 29. “He’s talked a lot about Ohio State and his legacy there.”

Ranked the 15th-best player nationally in 2023 by 247Sports’ composite rankings, Bryant is highly coveted by Ohio State. The interest is mutual, as one can also tell by Bryant's Twitter account. The OSU linebacker target was paying attention during Ohio State’s 45-31 Week 1 win against Minnesota. 

At 6-foot-2 and 235-pounds, Bryant is an imposing pass-rusher off the edge, as evidenced by recording a strip sack in IMG Academy’s 58-7 win over La Salle Friday. 

But the Orlando resident also excels in pass coverage, and that combination is why he’s as highly touted as he is.

“I think my strength is rushing the quarterback and also dropping into coverage because I’m putting stock into both,” Bryant said. “I think that’s what most schools are looking at me as, including Ohio State.” 

Bryant described his relationship with OSU linebackers coach Al Washington as “great” and said he expects to talk to Ryan Day more as his recruiting process plays out. He visited Columbus in late June, though he didn’t camp because of a leg injury. During his visit, he was impressed with the Buckeyes. 

“I was definitely shocked at what they had to provide,” Bryant said. “Because everything they were preaching was proven on my visit.” 

Bryant told Eleven Warriors he’s primarily being recruited as a Sam linebacker. 

“They’re a great program, the scheme we run (at IMG Academy) is definitely similar to the scheme coach Al Washington wants me to run there,” Bryant said. “He wants me to fit into their program, so I think it’s a good fit at Ohio State.” 

Other programs on Bryant’s radar include Georgia, Alabama and Miami. He hopes to come back to Ohio State this fall, but is unsure of what game. As of Aug. 29, he didn’t have any fall visits booked yet, but he said he’d like to visit Columbus if possible. 

Buckeyes offer Cedric Baxter Jr. 

Cedric Baxter Jr., a standout athlete from Edgewater High School (Orlando, Florida), picked up an offer from Ohio State running backs coach Tony Alford Monday afternoon. 

Baxter, a four-star recruit, told 247Sports on Monday that OSU is recruiting him primarily as a running back. Baxter is a two-way player at Edgewater, where he has played defensive back and linebacker as well. In Baxter’s sophomore season, he rushed for 426 yards and two touchdowns while averaging five yards per carry. On the defensive end, he recorded 20 tackles (one for a loss) and two pass deflections. 

The 6-foot-1, 215-pound Baxter is rated the 150th-best player in the class of 2023 and the 16th-best athlete. He told 247Sports he has interest in Ohio State. 

“They get people to The League and they’re always a top contender,” Baxter Jr. said. “And I know they are a top school academically.”

Baxter joins a list of running back targets for the 2023 class that is led by Richard Young, Rueben Owens and Justice Haynes. Alford was also in Massillon on Friday to watch Willtrell Hartson.

Cook announces top 12

A standout wide receiver for the class of 2023 has put the Buckeyes on his top 12 list. 

Johntay Cook II, a four-star receiver from Texas, released a top 12 that included Ohio State, Florida, LSU, Alabama, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Oregon, Notre Dame, Penn State, Texas, USC and Texas A&M. 

The 6-foot, 170-pound Cook is ranked as the 45th-best player and the eighth-best receiver in the 2023 class. He received his offer from OSU in May and was contacted by wide receivers coach Brian Hartline on Sept. 1 when coaches were legally able to contact 2023 recruits directly. He has not yet made a visit to Columbus, though. 

Ohio State is also in hot pursuit of 2023 wideout Carnell Tate, who is expected to announce a commitment on Oct. 8. It’s possible Ohio State may only take two wide receivers in the 2023 class. Other OSU targets at wideout with an offer from the Buckeyes that have not yet committed include Braylon James, Jalen Hale and Zachariah Branch, the brother of OSU 2022 safety target Zion Branch.

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