The commitment that Ohio State fans have perhaps wanted the most in recent months arrived on Saturday afternoon as five-star Pickerington (Ohio) Central do-it-all defender Sonny Styles chose the Buckeyes over Notre Dame, Alabama, and many others to become commitment No. 3 in the 2023 recruiting class.
Commitments don’t come much bigger than this one, so lets dive right in to what this means for the Buckeyes.
What Ohio State is getting
I’m not exaggerating when I say that Sonny Styles is as impressive of an athlete as I’ve ever covered in the state of Ohio. At 6-foot-4 (and growing) and 215-pounds, Styles is capable of doing things athletically that you just don’t see out of human beings his size. He can play centerfield as a single high safety, he can play strong safety, he can play any of the linebacker positions, he can cover tight ends, and he can blitz and rush the passer.
Simply put, he is the ultimate defensive weapon. Ohio State has recruited him as such, working him out at all three levels of the defense during his various camp stops back in June and the Buckeyes pitched him on being a do-it-all kind of player who they will tailor his role to the opponent each week.
While the debate will rage for at least the next 18 months on how Styles will be deployed in Columbus, I see a future linebacker with a rare tool kit. Not only can Styles operate as a traditional linebacker and play all three of the linebacker positions, if necessary, but he can also be used as a tight end stopper *and* he possesses the frame, explosiveness, and tenacity to be even be used as a Von Miller type of edge rusher. Styles will likely put on another 20 or more pounds of muscle before he maxes out and the aggressiveness and violence with which he plays the game would make him a terror coming off the edge.
Even more intriguing about his future prospects are his intangibles. Styles possesses tremendous leadership attributes, not just vocally, but as someone who constantly puts in the extra work and studies the game. Styles commands the respect of his teammates by the way he carries himself and by how much focus his puts into his craft. When you combine this type of work ethic with the physical tools he has, the sky is truly the limit. He’s on the very, very short list of the best prospects that I’ve seen come out of Ohio in the past 15 years.
What it means for recruiting
What a huge recruiting win for the Buckeyes. Many felt Styles could end up in South Bend with his older brother, but the Buckeyes recruited Sonny as though he was a five-star from California or Texas. They never took his proximity to Columbus or status as a legacy recruit for granted and used the geography to their advantage to get him around the program as much as possible.
You simply can’t lose a player of this caliber that resides less than 30 minutes from campus. While one player doesn’t make or break a program, this was as close to a “must get” as you can have given his ability, the high profile status of this recruitment, and the fact that the Buckeyes are sorely missing a difference maker like this in the linebackers room.
Pairing Styles with 2022 five-star C.J. Hicks completely turbo-charges the rebuild of the linebackers room and paints a very different picture moving forward in terms of the optimism around that position group.
Additionally, and as mentioned above, Styles is the type of personality and leader that other players gravitate toward. He is ideally positioned to be a leader of this class because of that and because he will be able to be on campus for all of the big recruiting events due to his proximity to campus.
If Ohio State is able to land A.J. Harris this winter, it would have a local five-star to handle all of the big campus recruiting events as well as another five-star and well respected personality in Harris to patrol the talent-rich Southeast. Having just one of these guys already in the fold to help build the class is huge, having two would be impossible to overstate.
But the Buckeyes now have their keystone of the class in the fold, much like how they were able to lock up Hicks early in ’22 and this could be the start of an absolutely massive run in the 2023 cycle.