Top Cincinnati high school football players for 2023

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JUNE UPDATE: Top 23 Greater Cincinnati Division I football prospects heading into 2023

Scott Springer
Cincinnati Enquirer

With college football early signing day set for December for the class of 2023, The Cincinnati Enquirer again looks ahead at Greater Cincinnati recruits who could sign to play for Division I colleges by 2023 and others on the radar of major programs.

The compilation is based on rankings from recruiting sites and Rivals, as well as reported offers. The Enquirer will regularly update these rankings which can fluctuate as the season nears based on offers, performances at camps as well as overall improvement from one season to the next.

A rise or a drop in the rankings doesn't necessarily indicate future success, particularly with a season ahead that has yet to be played. 

For a third consecutive year, the top-rated local player is from the Greater Miami Conference. In 2021, Jyaire Brown of Lakota West (now at Ohio State) held the honor. The top-ranked local in 2020 was Paris Johnson Jr. of Princeton, also at Ohio State. Current Lakota West senior (2023) Malik Hartford tops the list. 

1. Malik Hartford, athlete, Lakota West

Malik Hartford of Lakota West, shown getting ready to tackle St. Xavier's Charles Kellom, is considered a four-star recruit, No. 4 in Ohio and No. 19 nationally at his position.

Hartford is a 6-foot-3-inch, 180-pound junior who had 58 tackles for the Firebirds, a sack and two interceptions, including a pick-six. Hartford is considered a four-star recruit, No. 4 in Ohio and No. 19 nationally at his position. Hartford committed to Ohio State April 6. 

2. Austin Siereveld, offensive line, Lakota East

The 6-foot-6-inch 335-pound offensive lineman moved up in the rankings after his recent commitment to the Ohio State Buckeyes on May 4

Austin Siereveld,  a Lakota East lineman, committed to Ohio State over Alabama and Notre Dame in May.

3. Elias Rudolph, defensive line, Taft

The No. 4 prospect is just a sophomore who is seeing an upswing in his recruiting. The 6-foot-5-inch, 220-pound edge rusher has offers from Tennessee, Pitt, Boston College, Clemson, Ohio State, Bowling Green, Akron, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Kentucky, Arkansas, Michigan and Toledo. He had 107 tackles, 12 sacks and two fumble recoveries for Taft last fall and added five catches for 95 yards as a receiver. 

Taft wide receiver Elias Rudolph, the No. 4 prospect, is seeing an upswing in his recruiting.

4. Jordan Marshall, running back, Moeller

The sophomore ran for 1,185 yards and 15 touchdowns for the 11-4 Crusaders, a team that made it to the Ohio Division I state semifinals. Marshall also caught 23 passes for seven touchdowns. The 5-foot-11-inch, 185-pound back has offers from Cincinnati, Ohio Stat Kentucky, Louisville, Pitt, Akron, Toledo, Boston College, Rutgers, Georgia Tech, Vanderbilt, Northwestern, Iowas, Purdue, Tennessee, Michigan, Michigan State and Miami University. 

Moeller running back Jordan Marshall has nearly 20 offers from college football programs.

5. Jermaine Mathews Jr., cornerback, Winton Woods

The 6-foot, 175-pound Mathews had 44 tackles, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and five interceptions for the Division II champion Warriors. He also returned two punts for touchdowns. Mathews listed his top nine schools April 3: West Virginia, Cincinnati, Maryland, Illinois, Rutgers, Indiana, Pitt, Washington, Purdue and Kentucky. He has since been offered by Ohio State and Louisiana State University (LSU). 

Winton Woods defensive back Jermaine Mathews Jr. (7) has listed his top colleges among those who offered him a spot, which most recently includes Ohio State.

6. Terhyon Nichols, cornerback, Withrow

The 6-foot 180-pound Tiger has 18 Division I offers including Cincinnati, Notre Dame, Tennesee, Kentucky, West Virginia, Minnesota, Michigan State, Georgia Tech, Boston College and Pitt.

Nichols, second from left, participated in Withrow's camp stops last season and saw his recruiting take off in 2022 with 18 Division I offers.

7. Ben Minich, athlete, Lakota West

The 6-foot-1-inch, 175-pound Minich had 49 tackles and a pick-six for the Firebirds on defense and caught 16 passes for four touchdowns as a receiver. He was also the Lakota West punter, placing eight kicks inside the 20-yard line. His offers include Cincinnati, Kentucky, Stanford, Indiana, Harvard, Yale, Toledo, Iowa State, Kent State, Army, Vanderbilt, Charlotte, Princeton, Duke, Wake Forest and Miami University. Minich ran 10.47 in the 100-meter dash during track season.

Lakota West defensive back Ben Minich (13) has received at least 15 offers to play college football.

8. (tie)Ted Hammond, defensive line, St. Xavier 

As a sophomore, the 6-foot-5-inch, 250-pound Hammond had 32 tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery for the Bombers. Hammond has 11 offers including Cincinnati, Connecticut, Duke, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Temple and Vanderbilt.

8 (tie). Koy Beasley, safety, La Salle 

Beasley is a 6-foot, 180-pound safety heading into his junior year. He tied for the Greater Catholic League-South lead in interceptions as a sophomore with three. He added 25 tackles and a fumble recovery. His offers include Boston College, Miami University, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Toledo and West Virginia.

La Salle receiver Koy Beasley (29) has received at least five offers from schools that include Boston College and West Virginia.

9. Josiah Jackson, cornerback, Fairfield

The 6-foot-1-inch, 175-pound Jackson had 48 tackles, a fumble recovery and two interceptions for the Indians as a junior and has started for two seasons. Jackson recently committed to the West Virginia Mountaineers. 

Josiah Jackson of Fairfield recently committed to West Virginia.

10. Braedyn Moore, athlete, Badin

The 6-foot-2-inch, 180-pound wide receiver led the Rams to the state title game and caught 61 passes for 655 yards with four touchdowns. As a defensive back, he had 54 tackles, seven interceptions and a punt return for a touchdown. Moore committed to the Cincinnati Bearcats April 20.

Braedyn Moore (11)  of Badin committed to the University of Cincinnati Bearcats in April.

11 Jordan Jackson, athlete, Fairfield

At 5 feet, 11 inches and 175 pounds, Jackson ran for 973 yards and six touchdowns at running back. He has offers from Maryland, West Virginia, Purdue, Connecticut, Duke, Minnesota, Akron, Toledo, Bowling Green, Kent State, Central Michigan, Miami University, Massachusetts, Ohio University, Buffalo and Western Michigan.

Fairfield wide receiver Jordan Jackson (3) has multiple Division I offers.

12. Cameron Calhoun, cornerback, Winton Woods

At 6 foot, 2 inches and 175 pounds, Calhoun led the Eastern Cincinnati Conference with nine interceptions and had 61 tackles. Calhoun committed to West Virginia March 30 but decommitted June 6. On June 14, he became the latest local to stay home with the Cincinnati Bearcats. 

Winton Woods defensive back Cameron Calhoun flipped from West Virginia to the hometown Cincinnati Bearcats.

13.  Phillip Daniels, offensive line/defensive line, Princeton 

Daniels is 6 foot, 5 inches and 288 pounds and is being recruited as an offensive lineman. His offers are from Boston College, Bowling Green, Miami University, Eastern Michigan, Kentucky, Eastern Kentucky, Ball State, Ohio University,  Pitt, Purdue, Minnesota, Akron and Toledo.

14. Zae Jennings, athlete, Colerain

The 6-foot-2-inch, 187-pound Jennings played quarterback for the Cardinals as a sophomore and ran for 1,019 yards and seven touchdowns with 326 of those coming in the season finale at Elder. Graduating in 2024, he holds offers from Miami University and Central Michigan.

Zae Jennings of Colerain runs the ball during an OHSAA first-round playoff game at Elder High School on Friday, Oct. 29, 2021. Jennings has offers from Central MIchigan and Miami University.

15. Breeon Ishmail, wide receiver, Princeton

At Hamilton last season, Ishmail followed in the footsteps of Malik Verdon who went to Iowa State and Kaleb Johnson who recently signed with Iowa. Ishmail is a 6-foot-5-inch, 200-pound target who had 16 catches for 290 yards and two touchdowns in eight games for the Big Blue along with 38 tackles and a sack as a linebacker. Ishmail transferred to Princeton in the spring. The three-star has been offered by Iowa State, Tennessee, Purdue, Louisville, Kentucky and West Virginia.

16. Joshua Fussell, cornerback, Lakota West

The 6-foot, 180-pound corner had 41 tackles and led the GMC in interceptions with six. The Firebird committed to Northwestern on May 19.

Lakota West defensive back Joshua Fussell committed to Northwestern in May.

17. Tennel Bryant, receiver, Moeller

The 5-foot-10-inch 162-pound speedster had 71 catches for the Crusaders for 896 yards and 15 touchdowns, plus 126 rushing yards and a score. Bryant has offers from Toledo, Austin Peay, Central Michigan Army, Navy, Air Force and Massachusetts with interest from Ohio University, Miami University and Cincinnati. Bryant was also one of the better 100-meter sprinters in the area and ran a wind-aided 10.29 during the season. He was GCL-South Runner of the Year.

Tennel Bryant could see his offers picking up after an outstanding spring track season where he was named GCL-South Runner of the Year.

18. Quinton Price, safety, Taft

The 6-foot-3-inch, 170-pound Senator sophomore had 36 tackles last season and was recently offered by Kentucky, Miami University and Purdue. He's also had visits to Cincinnati and Ohio State.

Withrow wide receiver Timothy Pope (10) tries to catch a pass in front of Taft defenders Quinton Price (12) and Keyandre Larry (4) during their football game, Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021. Price has added offers since the end of the season and has visited Cincinnati and Ohio State.

19. Talon Fisher, quarterback, Fairfield 

As a sophomore, the 6-foot-2-inch, 200-pound quarterback for the Indians threw for 1,381 yards and six touchdowns in 10 games and ran for 550 yards and 12 scores. He's been offered by Buffalo, Massachusetts and Miami University. 

Fairfield quarterback Talon Fisher (8) has seen his rankings go up since the end of his sophomore season.

20. Isaiah Birl, athlete, Walnut Hills

Birl is a 6-foot-1-inch, 190-pound prospect who was a running back and defensive back for the Eagles. He gained 390 yards for three touchdowns on the ground and had 11 receptions for 112 yards and another touchdown. He had 55 tackles, two forced fumbles, five fumble recoveries and a pair of interceptions. His offers include Air Force, Army, Navy, Akron, Bowling Green, Eastern Kentucky, Eastern Michigan, Miami University, Toledo and Western Michigan. 

Walnut Hills' Isaiah Birl holds double-digit offers.

21. Taebron Bennie-Powell, athlete, Lakota West

Bennie-Powell played running back and defensive back for the Thunderhawks as a sophomore and has now transferred to Lakota West. He is 6 feet, 3 inches tall and 180 pounds. Bennie-Powell holds offers from Kentucky, Eastern Kentucky, Massachusetts, Toledo and Miami University. He also recently visited Ohio State. He had 176 yards rushing and three receptions for 81 yards last season as a Thunderhawk along with 16 tackles and two interceptions (one a pick-six).

Taebron Bennie-Powell (26)  has transferred from Lakota East to Lakota West. Kentucky is among his offers and he's visited Ohio State.

22. T.J. Engleman, athlete, Hughes

As a sophomore, he took the Greater Miami Conference by storm filling in for injured Princeton starter Mekhi Lynn at quarterback. The 5-foot-9 inch, 175-pound Engleman threw for 1,207 yards and 16 touchdowns, starting eight of 13 games behind center. He also ran for 960 yards and 13 scores. Engleman announced his commitment to Georgia Tech on April 4. He since then has been offered by Purdue and taken a visit to Ohio State. In June, Engleman announced he was transferring to Hughes to play for his uncle Lorenzo Engleman along with cousins Jaleel Engleman and Lorenzo Engleman Jr. 

Princeton's T.J. Engleman (5) is currently committed to Georgia Tech where former Princeton coach Mike Daniels is an assistant coach.

23. C.J. Hester, running back, Wyoming

A 5-foot-11-inch, 180-pound junior back, Hester was the Ohio Division IV Offensive Player of the Year after running for 2,484 yards and 35 touchdowns. He also had 18 catches for four touchdowns, plus 32 tackles and an interception at safety. Hester recently committed to Western Michigan.

Wyoming running back C.J. Hester runs the ball in the game with Mariemont Oct. 8, 2021. Hester has committed to Western Michigan.

On the cusp

Notably, there are no Kentucky nor Indiana players listed. This is not by design but based on the fact that the top players in Kentucky and Indiana are thus far not ranked highly (compared to other Kentucky/Indiana players) based on 247Sports and Rivals. Here are several noteworthy talents who have offers or may soon be recognized.