Ohio State secured a commitment this evening from one of the nation’s most powerful running backs when Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) American Heritage four-star Mark Fletcher pledged his services to the Buckeyes during a ceremony at his high school.
As as sophomore in 2020, the 6-foot-1 and 225-pound Fletcher rushed for 1,411 yards and 11 touchdowns to lead the Patriots to the Class 5A state championship, which includes topping the 100-yard mark in four of their five playoff games. He was named the South Florida Sun Sentinel’s offensive player of the year as a result.
Fletcher’s stats took a slight dip in 2021, as American Heritage was forced to start five-star wide receiver Brandon Inniss at quarterback for the final seven games of the season due to injury. The offense was one-dimensional, but he still finished the year with 779 yards and 13 touchdowns in eight games, including a season-high 139 yards and two scores against eventual state champion Cardinal Gibbons.
“‘That’s a grown man’ is thrown out plenty at the prep football level as onlookers take in a given athlete’s build and style of play, but in Fletcher’s case, it has been said with conviction,” SI All-American director of recruiting John Garcia said. “He’s bullied his way onto the radar of college programs since hew as an underclassman, much like he does in close-quarters combat at the goal line or in short yardage.
“Fletcher has keyed the Patriots with his consistency as the focal point of the offense, even against elite South Florida competition. His no-nonsense approach fits many offenses, particularly zone-based schemes where he can combine the decisiveness of his one-cut style with power, speed and north-south finishing ability. While the style and flashes of physicality are easy to focus on, especially at the second and third level, it shouldn’t foster the assumption of a lack of quickness, as he can work a defender in a phone booth with a subtlety beyond what power provides.
“Vision may be the best element of Fletcher’s game, but he has areas to improve upon as a senior and at the collegial level, such as the passing game. He actually displays strong hand-eye coordinator and ball skills out of the backfield, but he’s yet to develop route construction traits to beat defenders with technique instead of relying on size and natural skill. Conversely, though, the physicality he shows on tape with the ball in his hands is reflected in pass protection – and even as a lead blocker on occasion – so a three-down role at the next level should not be overlooked.
“Overall, Fletcher is a big, powerful back who creates business decisions for defenders with a full head of steam but a long stride and subtle quickness at the contact point, creating big play opportunities in the process. As he rounds out his abilities, he can range from a narrow projection as an early-down back or specialists to a workhorse to build an entire offense around.”
As for how Fletcher fits into the class, Ohio State is looking to take two running backs this cycle from a group that includes Lehigh Acres (Fla.) Senior five-star Richard Young, Roswell (Ga.) four-star Justice Haynes and Orlando (Fla.) Edgewater four-star Cedric Baxter.
They’ll obviously be stuck behind sophomore TreVeyon Henderson and redshirt sophomore Miyan Williams when they arrive on campus in 2023, but would conceivably battle redshirt freshman Evan Pryor and incoming freshman Dallan Hayden for the starting role as second-year players.
Fletcher’s commitment also helps the staff when it comes to their pursuit of Inniss, fellow 2023 five-star wide receiver Carnell Tate and 2024 five-star wide receivers Jeremiah Smith and Joshisa Trader, who – along with four-star safety commit Cedrick Hawkins – are all on the same 7-on-7 team, the South Florida Express.
That group made their way to campus together earlier this month for a visit that coincided with Student Appreciation Day, and there’s a belief that some, if not all, of them want to play together in college. This is another step toward that, with the Buckeyes also widely viewed as the favorite for Tate and Smith, specifically.
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