Every day until fall camp begins for Ohio State we will profile a different Buckeye football player. Today that player is freshman safety Jaylen Johnson. Yesterday it was cornerback Demario McCall. You can find all of the daily Scoop Profiles right here.
No. 25 | Safety | 6-1 200 | Freshman | La Salle High School | Cincinnati, Ohio
How’d He Get Here
The Ohio State coaches got an up-close look at Jaylen Johnson as a prospect two years ago at a June camp on the OSU campus. He impressed them enough to earn an offer that day. Kentucky offered a week later and Penn State came in that September with an offer of their own. Michigan offered Johnson in late October. He considered that offer for a couple of months before finally committing to Ohio State on January 7 of last year. Johnson was ranked the No. 29 safety in the 2021 recruiting class and the No. 412 player overall. He enrolled this summer. Johnson was a Second-Team All-State selection as a junior and a First-Team All-State selection per MaxPreps as a senior.
It is difficult to say exactly what the current situation is for Jaylen Johnson because he may end up at a couple of different positions. There has been some talk that he could end up at the hybrid bullet position rather than safety. And where he ends up may not be where he starts. And there are a couple of different safety spots he could start out at before he eventually grows into a bullet. So what is his current situation? He’s going to be a freshman at the back of the line, but it’s going to be a line without an established starter. Johnson will need to make the most of his limited opportunities early in order to continue to get more and more reps in fall camp.
What to Like
You didn’t have to watch Jaylen Johnson in high school long to love the way he hits ball carriers. He doesn’t just throw a shoulder — though he probably could. He also wraps up so that players stay tackled. Johnson was an active safety in high school who was a lethal run stopper. This is no timid defensive back who finds a way to avoid contact. Johnson is already a decent-sized safety at 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds, so it’s not like it would take much to put a little more weight on him to handle the bullet position. With his size, athleticism, experience at safety, and high interest in contact, Johnson can help the team in a number of ways down the line.
What’s the Ceiling This Year?
The ceiling for Jaylen Johnson this year is finding a spot and landing in the three-deep. Then whatever happens after that this season is gravy. It’s not unlike a defensive end who could grow into a defensive tackle next year or a tight end who was more of a wide receiver in high school. Some guys need a year of exploration before declaring their football major. Johnson may be one of those guys. And yet even with all of those caveats, there’s nothing that says he couldn’t be a valuable member on kick coverage. It will just depend on whether or not the coaching staff wants to protect his redshirt and give him a year of distance from redshirt freshman Kourt Williams, who could also be at the bullet.
There is always room for a big, versatile defender on a roster. As Jaylen Johnson gets older and finds his footing, he will then be able to start the climb towards his ceiling. There are some who have compared him to former Buckeye linebacker Darron Lee. Lee was a safety and quarterback in high school and came to Ohio State as possibly a safety or linebacker. He redshirted his first year and then exploded as a walk-out linebacker in 2014. This will probably be a redshirt year for Johnson, and there’s nothing wrong with that. His future will have some big hits, but it will be the other aspects of his game that determines how good he can be as a Buckeye.