Top-100 2026 Prospect Samari Matthews Respects Tim Walton's Developmental Track Record, Knows He’d Be on a “Big-Time Stage” at Ohio State

By Garrick Hodge on May 30, 2024 at 10:10 am
Samari Matthews

In their last week of being on the road recruiting before returning to Columbus for official visits, Tim Walton and Matt Guerrieri made it a priority to stop in North Carolina to check in on a top-10 cornerback prospect in the 2026 class.

Ohio State’s tandem of secondary coaches watched four-star North Carolina prospect Samari Matthews participate in a spring football practice at William Amos Hough (Cornelius, North Carolina), then had exciting news for him after the workout ended. Walton told the 6-foot, 180-pound product he had impressed him enough to earn a scholarship to Ohio State. 

“It feels good,” Matthews told Eleven Warriors after receiving his offer. “Of course it’s a big program, so getting an offer from there is always big. Coach Walton, he’s always got great defensive backs coming out of the program so I’m truly blessed by that. They offered me after my spring practice, and they said I have the physicality and the height and weight to be an Ohio State DB. They told me to just keep working and that they hope to continue building a relationship with me and eventually get me to commit there.” 

The Buckeyes had been on Matthews’ radar for a long time. He camped in Columbus last summer and left a favorable impression on Walton, then communicated with him multiple times over the past year. Before he even earned the Ohio State offer, Matthews and Walton had already established a strong rapport. 

“We obviously can’t talk (every day because of the recruiting rules), but we still have good communication,” Matthews said. “They’ll tell me some little stuff like techniques I can use (on the field) and I’d say we have pretty good contact with each other. I’d say we’ve been in contact for a couple of months, especially since I went to their camp last summer.”   

Matthews says he is considering returning to Ohio State this summer to compete in another recruiting camp and is also hoping to attend a game at Ohio Stadium later this fall. If he makes the trip back to Columbus in June, working out with Walton will feel a little different knowing he has an offer from the Buckeyes. 

“It would be a cool experience,” Matthews said. “Coach Walton definitely has the history, especially with coaching guys like Jalen Ramsey. Being able to get coached by him again now, knowing that he values me since he offered me, would definitely be big. I’m hoping for that opportunity.” 

According to 247Sports’ composite rankings, Matthews is the No. 83 prospect and No. 6 rated cornerback in the 2026 class. He’s earned 37 Division I offers in total, including Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Colorado, Florida, Florida State, Kentucky, Louisville, Miami, N.C. State, North Carolina, Ole Miss, Penn State, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Virginia Tech, USC and Wisconsin.

In Matthews’ sophomore season, he was named a first-team defensive all-star for the Charlotte region by The Charlotte Observer after he recorded 25 tackles and one interception while helping lead Hough to an 11-2 record with his excellence in coverage.

“I’m very physical, and I can run with anybody,” Matthews said of his on-field game. “I can also be physical with anybody and shut down my side of the field. I think that aspect of the game where I’m not going to let you get your hands on me or block me separates me.” 

In addition to Ohio State, Matthews said South Carolina, Clemson, Florida State, Tennessee, Virginia Tech, North Carolina, NC State and Penn State are the other schools standing out the most so far in his recruitment. 

“I’d definitely say they’re up there because they’re Ohio State, and I have a great relationship with coach Walton,” Matthews said of where the Buckeyes sit in his recruitment. “So they’re definitely in the top 15, top 10, maybe even top five right now. It’s a big-time stage. There are all types of great teams in there. You’ll always be on TV, and scouts will always go to Ohio State games because it’s Ohio State.” 

He said he hopes to commit next summer before the start of his senior year.

“I care about the overall relationship I have with the coaching staff, the amount of trust I have with them and trusting them to develop me on and off the field,” Matthews said of the biggest deciding factor in his recruitment. “I’ll be living the next three to four years of my life with them and they’ll be my support system, so I just want that overall trust with the coaches.”

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