It's been a hot minute since we've put out a Heat Check.
But with the 2022 recruiting class essentially wrapped up as of Wednesday, all eyes now turn to Ohio State's recruiting class of 2023.
Naturally, we figured this was a good time to bring back the Heat Check, which will now continue to run monthly from here on out as we highlight the Buckeyes’ top targets for the 2023 class.
As it stands, Ohio State has four commits total for the class of 2023, two of which came in January. Four-star Florida safety Cedrick Hawkins surprised pretty much everyone in the recruiting industry and committed literally during the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1. Meanwhile, three-star defensive tackle and Ohio State legacy Will Smith Jr. decided to follow in his late father's footsteps and commit to the Scarlet and Gray on Jan. 23. They joined the first two members of Ohio State’s 2023 class, Tennessee tight end Ty Lockwood and in-state offensive lineman Joshua Padilla.
Now, to paraphrase Bill Belichick, we're on to February.
We've ranked the top 11 Ohio State targets for 2023 in order of their importance to OSU's 2023 recruiting class. This doesn't mean these are the best 11 players the Buckeyes have offered in the 2023 cycle, but rather they're the most important recruits for OSU to land based on a combination of the prospects' talent, position and likelihood that recruit will actually pick the Ohio State hat on the table in the end. As things go in recruiting, the board will likely look much different in March than it does in February as the recruiting process plays out.
With that being said, here's a look at Eleven Warriors' first Ohio State recruiting board of 2023.
|PROSPECT||POSITION||RANK||PREV.||RATING||OTHERS IN THE MIX|
|CARNELL TATE||WR||3||NA||★★★★★||Notre Dame•Alabama•Tennessee|
|CHASE BISONTIS||OL||4||NA||★★★★||Michigan State•Rutgers•Notre Dame|
|SAMSON OKUNLOLA||OL||5||NA||★★★★★||Notre Dame•Penn State•Georgia|
|AJ HARRIS||CB||6||NA||★★★★★||North Carolina•Clemson•Cincinnati|
|AJ HOFFLER||DL||7||NA||★★★★||Georgia•Florida State|
|MALIK HARTFORD||S||8||NA||★★★★||Michigan State•Cincinnati•Michigan|
|KADYN PROCTOR||OL||10||NA||★★★★★||Iowa•Alabama•Notre Dame|
|CORMANI MCCLAIN||CB||11||NA||★★★★★||Alabama•Florida State•Florida|
The top-ranked prospect on our board lives relatively 70 miles from Columbus in Findlay, Ohio. That doesn't mean landing him is going to be a slam dunk, though. Michigan, Clemson, Oklahoma and USC are all being strongly-considered by Montgomery, who has decided to play offensive line in college instead of defensive line.
The 6-foot-5, 260-pound offensive lineman will likely have his recruitment wrapped up in May, and while OSU remains in great shape to land the board's top-ranked target, sealing the deal with one of Ohio's top prospects will be paramount to Justin Frye and OSU's staff. The Buckeyes have done their part to make Montgomery feel like a priority, with Ryan Day, Frye and Corey Dennis all attending one of his basketball games in January, while Frye has spoken with him numerous times. Considering offensive tackle is probably the Buckeyes' No. 1 need in the 2023 recruiting class, Montgomery certainly feels like a must-get recruit at the moment.
Ohio State believes Richard Young could be the eventual successor to TreVeyon Henderson. Based on his billing as the top-rated running back in the 2023 class, it's not hard to see why. OSU will have plenty of competition for Young's signature, but the Florida running back has had a longstanding interest in Ohio State and has even worn Buckeyes gear in a high school game.
The fact that Day, Kirby Smart and Nick Saban all flew in to Lehigh Acres, Florida in a 24-hour span to visit with Young in January should illuminate just how coveted of a prospect Young is, but it still seems OSU has the edge here.
As far as Ohio State goes, there's nothing really new to report here. Tate is still heavily considering the Buckeyes along with Notre Dame, Tennessee, Alabama and a few others. Tate visited OSU twice last fall for the Penn State and Michigan State games, and it's still very possible the five-star wideout chooses the Buckeyes in the end. But after delaying a commitment scheduled for October, Tate seems to be slow-playing his recruitment and enjoying the process. Seeing as he’s the Buckeyes’ top receiver target in the 2023 class, OSU will be willing to wait it out for as long as it takes for Tate to make a decision.
Ohio State put on a full-court press for Bisontis in January. Frye flew out to New Jersey to watch the four-star offensive tackle work out, then returned about a week later with Day.
Bisontis recently told Eleven Warriors he felt mutual love with Ohio State and plans to visit Columbus in the spring. His other top schools include Rutgers, Michigan State and Notre Dame. Out of all of those, Ohio State should be considered the favorite for the four-star standout, who plans to makes a decision before the summer is over.
You're probably noticing a theme by now. Offensive linemen, tackle prospects in particular, are in high demand for Ohio State in 2023. Similar to Montgomery and Bisontis, the Buckeyes would love to land a tackle of Okunlola's caliber, and if they somehow could land all three, there would be a party at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.
After Day and Frye visited Bisontis, they continued their East Coast road trip to Massachusetts to visit Okunlola at his school. Okunlola has been intrigued by the Buckeyes since last summer and plans to visit to Columbus in the spring. It's hard to discern what school should be considered the front runner for him at the moment, though.
Unlike Tate, Harris is not someone who wanted to let his recruitment play out longer than it already has, but after the massive coaching turnover at a good portion of his top schools, he felt like he had no choice.
Kerry Coombs departing Ohio State's staff is certainly a blow to Ohio State's chances of landing the uber-talented five-star Alabama cornerback, and actually gives Cincinnati more than a puncher's chance, but OSU still has some hope here. Perry Eliano and Tim Walton have already both spoken multiple times with Harris and still have time to develop a relationship with him since he has not set a new commitment date after postponing his previous commitment date of Jan. 11.
Harris will take numerous visits again in the spring, and Ohio State is likely going to be one of those colleges receiving a visit. North Carolina, Clemson, Alabama and Georgia are also serious threats to land him, though.
Of all the prospects on the board, this is probably the one most likely to sign with Ohio State. Hoffler, a four-star defensive lineman, has called the Buckeyes his dream school numerous times, and nearly cried when receiving his OSU offer on his Nov. 20 visit.
He took another trip to Columbus in January, and Ohio State is considered a heavy favorite for the Georgia resident, though it would be interesting to see if that changes if his hometown Bulldogs extend an offer. As of now, Hoffler hopes to commit on his birthday in August, and unless something significantly changes, it's likely Hoffler will be picking the Buckeyes.
A four-star safety prospect from Ohio, Hartford might have flown under the radar a bit after playing with Ohio State signees Jyaire Brown and Tegra Tshabola at Lakota West last season. Not anymore.
After taking an unofficial visit to Columbus on Jan. 22, Hartford was offered by Ohio State and has been in constant communication with the Buckeyes since. He now appears to be OSU's biggest uncommitted in-state target not named Luke Montgomery. While the Buckeyes are relatively new to Hartford’s recruitment, new safeties coach Perry Eliano was Hartford’s lead recruiter at Cincinnati. A decision doesn't appear imminent, with Hartford likely to let the recruiting process play out and make a decision around the summer, but he’s become one of Ohio State’s top priorities.
You know the drill by now. Kirkland is another immensely talented 2023 offensive tackle, and there seems to be lots of mutual respect between Ohio State and the four-star Florida standout. He last visited OSU for the Michigan State game, and the Buckeyes still have a great chance of landing Kirkland, but Georgia, Miami, Oklahoma are among the other schools vying for his commitment.
Proctor is the highest-ranked offensive tackle in the 2023 class. Why, then, is he ranked behind four offensive tackles on our board? Because he's going to be the hardest to land. Ohio State, and plenty of other suitors, will have a massive uphill battle with Iowa to land the five-star talent from Des Moines. Proctor attends the same high school as Xavier Nwankpa, who chose Iowa even though he was one of Ohio State’s top safety targets in the 2022 cycle. Still, the Buckeyes have to try here, and maybe Frye and Ohio State can pull a rabbit out of their hats and land a big fish.
McClain has two Crystal Ball projections thus far, and neither of them are for Ohio State. Yet McClain has said he's intrigued by the Buckeyes, who he’s included in his top five, and plans to take a visit to Columbus in the spring. Ohio State wants to take two cornerbacks in the 2023 class, and McClain is the top-ranked cornerback in 247Sports’ composite rankings.
Pairing Tate with former Oklahoma commitment Brandon Inniss would certainly be enticing, and the Buckeyes will get another stab at the five-star wideout when he visits Ohio State later this spring.
Four-star defensive lineman Keith Sampson Jr. is very high on the Buckeyes and could make a good addition to the defensive trenches. The same could be said for four-star defensive tackle Kayden McDonald.
Newly hired defensive coordinator Jim Knowles visited four-star Louisiana linebacker Tackett Curtis twice in January, so it's clear Curtis is a favorite of Knowles and it's very possible Curtis lands on this board sooner rather than later. Four-star linebacker target Troy Bowles has long been a key Ohio State target, but news has gone quiet on that front in recent months.
If five-star Georgia safety Caleb Downs wanted to commit to Ohio State tomorrow, Day certainly wouldn't turn him away, as he remains a key figure on their board.
Ryan Day always tries to land a top-flight quarterback in every recruiting cycle, and either Dante Moore or Nicholaus Iamaleava would fit that billing for the Buckeyes. With Devin Brown and Kyle McCord likely around to compete for the starting quarterback job in 2023, quarterback isn't as pressing as a need as some other positions in the cycle, but with the likely departure of C.J. Stroud to the NFL after 2022, OSU will need to add another signal caller to its room for 2023, either from the high school level or the transfer portal.