Lakota West’s Malik Hartford commits to Ohio State

Lakota West safety Malik Hartford on Wednesday committed to Ohio State. Hartford is the No. 2 recruit in Ohio in the Class of 2023. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

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Lakota West safety Malik Hartford on Wednesday committed to Ohio State. Hartford is the No. 2 recruit in Ohio in the Class of 2023. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Malik Hartford verbally committed to Ohio State on Wednesday afternoon in a press conference at Lakota West High School.

The four-star safety picked the Buckeyes from a top seven that also consisted of Cincinnati, Kentucky, Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame and West Virginia.

ExploreA first look at the area's top prospects in the class of 2023

Hartford had 58 tackles, two interceptions and a sack for the Firebirds last season and made the All-GMC first team.

He is a national top 100 prospect and the No. 2 player in the state per 247Sports.

Hartford told CBS Sports, which streamed the announcement nationally, he chose the Buckeyes for the overall program.

“It’s a great program,” he said. “I’ll have plenty of opportunities there. I want to get developed, and they can do that.”

Safety recruiting figures to be a priority moving forward at Ohio State, where new defensive coordinator Jim Knowles is installing a scheme that plays five defensive backs almost all the time and relies heavily on three safeties.

ExploreKnowles sheds light on new positions, spring progress

Ohio State entered the day with a five-player recruiting class ranked No. 8 in the country and second in the Big Ten for 2023.

Hartford is the fourth in-state player to commit to the Buckeyes for 2023, joining Wayne offensive lineman Joshua Padilla, Findlay offensive lineman Luke Montgomery and Dublin Coffman defensive lineman Will Smith Jr.

Montgomery is the No. 1 prospect in Ohio while Padilla is No. 5 and Smith ranks ninth.

Ohio State has signed five payers from Lakota West all-time, including offensive lineman Tegra Tshabola and cornerback Jyaire Brown last fall.

The Buckeyes previously signed linemen Solomon Thomas in 2007, Steve Rehring in 2004 and Brandon Maupin in 2003.

So far more than two dozen area players in the 2023 class have received at least some interest from Division I football programs.

That includes Lakota West’s Ben Minich, Joshua Fussell and Mitch Bolden.

Lakota East offensive lineman Austin Siereveld has an offer from Ohio State (among many schools) while Wayne offensive lineman Evan Tengesdahl and Miamisburg tight end Jackson McGohan both verbally committed to the University of Cincinnati and Fairfield defensive back Josiah Jackson gave his pledge to West Virginia.

Springfield linebacker Jaivian Norman verbally committed to Eastern Michigan, and Springfield receivers Anthony Brown and Shawn Thigpen are also being courted by multiple big schools.

Many more players figure to add offers and announce their decisions in the coming weeks as recruiting heats up this spring and summer.

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