Luke Fickell made all the difference for Malik Vann at Cincinnati

Malik Vann made it official Wednesday morning: He is a Cincinnati Bearcat.

The four-star defensive end from Fairfield committed to Luke Fickell’s program before the season then backed up his ranking as the No. 15 defensive end in the country with his play on the field.

He tied Middletown’s Ayron Thompson for the GMC lead with 6.5 sacks and was named the league’s defensive player of the year.

He was also named the Southwest Ohio Defensive Player of the Year and made the All-Ohio first team.

“It’s just an honor to be here,” Vann said before putting pen to paper. “I’m ready to be a Bearcat.”

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Apparently that was all made possible by Fickell, who put together the top-rated recruiting class in the American Athletic Conference (per 247Sports) in his first full year on the job.

“I would have never thought I would be sitting here committed to UC today, to be honest, but it was just him,” Vann said of the long-time Ohio State assistant. “He got me to believe and buy into the program and what he was doing.”

Heading into the beginning of the early signing period, Fickell had verbal commitments from 10 Ohioans, including Franklin running back Ryan Montgomery.

Vann also credited the recruiting efforts of Marcus Freeman, a Wayne graduate who played linebacker for Fickell at Ohio State and is the Bearcats’ defensive coordinator.

“He was a big factor in my recruiting,” said Vann, who first had contact with him when Freeman was an assistant at Purdue. “I just liked him. I’ve always kept in contact with him throughout the whole recruiting process, and then he came to UC.”

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