The Hurry-Up: Sonny Styles “Still Open to Go Anywhere,” Two Cornerbacks Land Ohio State Offers and Wilfredo Aybar Could Join Buckeyes’ 2021 Class

By Dan Hope on June 17, 2021 at 2:35 pm
Sonny Styles

With two more high school football camps at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center over the past two days, there’s been no shortage of developments on the recruiting front for Ohio State this week.

In this edition of the Hurry-Up, we share a little of what we learned from attending those camps the last two days – you can also read our roundups on the top prospects who participated in Tuesday’s camp and Wednesday’s camp – and catch up on some of the other developments from the recruiting trail over the past few days.

Styles “still open to go anywhere”

After interviewing nearly 20 different prospects following the last two days of camps, there are many players who could featured at the start of this Hurry-Up, but we’ll start with the highest-ranked prospect who participated in either camp: five-star safety/linebacker Sonny Styles, the No. 15 overall prospect in the 2023 class, who sits right at the top of Ohio State’s board for the junior class as its top-ranked Ohioan.

The good news for Ohio State is that Styles camped with the Buckeyes for a second time in 15 days on Wednesday, making it clear his interest in his hometown school – where his father also played – is real.

“I had the opportunity to come back, so I might as well,” Styles said after his second camp, in which he worked out mostly with Al Washington and the linebackers. “I love to come out here and work with the coaches. Really enjoy being able to work with Coach Washington and Coach (Kerry) Coombs, Coach (Matt) Barnes as well as Coach (Larry) Johnson.”

The concern for Ohio State is that Notre Dame, where his brother Lorenzo Styles Jr. is now a freshman wide receiver, is also a very real contender to land him. Styles didn’t deny that on Wednesday, saying that Notre Dame is “definitely going to be one of my top schools.”

“Notre Dame’s somewhere I would want to go, obviously,” Styles said. “My brother’s there, it’s a great school, it’s a great football program.”

What Styles does deny is the notion that he’s already made any decision about his future. While a recent 247Sports Crystal Ball forecasted that he will go to Notre Dame, Styles still has plans to visit many more schools – he’s still headed to North Carolina, Florida State, Ole Miss, Alabama and LSU this month, and plans to visit Clemson and Florida in the fall – and says he is “still open to go anywhere right now.”

He’s not in any rush to make a commitment right now, wishing only to make a decision before his senior year of high school. His older brother is among those who have encouraged him to take his time with the process.

“My brother always told me, just take your time with it,” Styles said. “You gotta go out there and see other schools. Don’t see one school and just be stuck on that. And I think that’s what I’m gonna do. So that’s why I’m just trying to go to as many schools as I can. See what I like, so I can find out where I want to go.”

Ohio State is positioned as one of the frontrunners in his recruitment right now.

“I could definitely see myself playing here,” Styles said of Ohio State.

Denson earns offer at camp

Of the three 2023 prospects who earned offers from Ohio State after participating in Tuesday’s camp, two of them came as no surprise. Five-star defensive end David “DJ” Hicks and four-star linebacker Troy Bowles were both expected to receive offers from the Buckeyes before Tuesday’s camp even began, and their strong showings on the field validated their standing as top defensive prospects the Buckeyes need to pursue.

The other prospect who received an offer from the Buckeyes after Tuesday’s camp wasn’t as heralded when he arrived. Sharif Denson, who announced his offer on social media Wednesday morning, is ranked as only a three-star recruit by 247Sports. But Denson arrived at Ohio State on Tuesday motivated to show he deserves more recognition than he’s gotten, and that’s exactly what he did.

“I’m obviously more than a three-star, and I proved that I am more than a three-star,” Denson said after Tuesday’s camp. “They’re gonna wake up.”

Denson’s offer list backs up that assertion, as he now holds offers from more than 30 FBS programs including Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Miami, Michigan, Notre Dame, Oklahoma and Penn State, among many others. He believes the offer from Ohio State, in particular, proves that he should be ranked higher than his current standing as 247Sports’ No. 31 cornerback in his class.

“Ohio State is one of the premier programs in the nation and to be offered by them shows that I am one of the best DBs in the country,” Denson said after getting his offer.

While he’s not the biggest cornerback at only 5-foot-11 and 170 pounds, he believes he makes up for that with his commitment to technique.

“I’m a technician,” Denson said. “When people come up to me and see me, I’m not the biggest guy, I’m not the most physically intimidating guy but I also understand football in my head. I understand the wide receiver and what he’s going to do based off of things that he’s done.”

Clearly, Denson was able to demonstrate that to Kerry Coombs and Matt Barnes on Thursday, earning him an offer from Ohio State, one of the four schools he’s visited this month along with Florida, Florida State and Clemson.

The Jacksonville, Florida native said he wants to return to Ohio State for a game this fall, and he’s looking to go to a program with a history of developing NFL defensive backs – which means he’s sure to hear plenty from Coombs about Ohio State’s seven first-round cornerbacks since 2014. 

2022 CB gets an offer, too

Denson became the second cornerback to receive an offer from Ohio State this week after Terrance Brooks, a four-star cornerback from Plano, Texas, announced he had received an offer from the Buckeyes on Monday.

Brooks is ranked as the No. 8 cornerback and No. 58 overall prospect in the class of 2022, and his offer indicates that Ohio State is still looking to add one more cornerback for 2022 even though it already has three cornerbacks committed for that class.

If you’re into reading between the lines, that’s probably not a great sign for where Ohio State stands in the recruitment of its top uncommitted cornerback target Toriano Pride, who’s set to announce his commitment – Clemson is the expected choice – on Friday. The commitment of five-star cornerback Jaheim Singletary isn't on the firmest of ground either, as he told 247Sports last weekend that he still plans to visit Miami and Georgia, so the Buckeyes have reason to continue pursuing other top prospects at the position.

Another one of the 2022 class’ top cornerbacks, Jeadyn Lukus, told Rivals on Wednesday that his communication with Ohio State has recently picked up and that Coombs and Ryan Day are trying to get him to Columbus for a visit before the end of June, as he plans to make a commitment this summer.

“That’s DBU,” Lukus said of Ohio State. “I’ve been talking to Coach Coombs, we’re trying to get something set up with a visit pretty soon. So we’ve just been talking back and forth. I’ve talked to Coach Day a couple times too.”

Covil commits to Clemson

Speaking of defensive backs who have been recruited by both Ohio State and Clemson, four-star safety Sherrod Covil Jr. announced his commitment to the Tigers on Thursday at the Rivals Five-Star Challenge.

Covil’s decision came just 10 days after he visited Ohio State. While the Buckeyes had been pursuing Covil as a bullet/strong safety prospect, their top targets to join Kye Stokes in the 2022 class at safety have been Zion Branch and Xavier Nwankpa, who both remain very much in play.

Trotter includes Buckeyes in top 4

Another Ohio State vs. Clemson battle could be shaping up in the recruitment of four-star 2023 linebacker Josiah Trotter, who included the Buckeyes and Tigers along with Penn State and South Carolina as he narrowed his recruitment down to four schools on Monday.

Trotter, whose father is two-time NFL All-Pro linebacker Jeremiah Trotter, has ties to both Ohio State and Clemson. He was teammates with Ohio State freshmen Kyle McCord and Marvin Harrison Jr. at St. Joseph’s Prep in Philadelphia, and his older brother Jeremiah Trotter Jr. is a freshman linebacker at Clemson.

After releasing his top four, the No. 120 overall prospect in the 2023 class told 247Sports that one reason he likes Ohio State is because Washington “showed us that he cared about the players on and off the field, and in making sure they were on top of everything in the classroom.”

Aybar could join 2021 class

For months, we’ve been saying that Ohio State was only recruiting one more player for the class of 2021: J.T. Tuimoloau, who arrives in Columbus on Thursday night for his highly anticipated official visit this weekend. As it turns out, though, there’s actually another defensive end who could also be a candidate to join the 2021 class regardless of what happens with Tuimoloau.

Four-star Connecticut defensive end Wilfredo Aybar was at Ohio State for an official visit last weekend, and while he has been a member of the recruiting class of 2022, Cheshire Academy coach David Dykeman told Rivals that Aybar is reclassifying to the class of 2021 – or as Dykeman put it, “declassifying,” since Aybar was originally in the class of 2021 before reclassifying to the class of 2022 when he enrolled at Cheshire.

Like Tuimoloau, Aybar rarely talks publicly about the recruiting process, but there’s a growing belief that Ohio State is the frontrunner to land Aybar, whose decision could come any day now that he is planning to enroll this summer. Ohio State picked up three 247Sports Crystal Balls to land Aybar on Monday.

Ohio State still has room to take both Aybar and Tuimoloau, so its pursuit of Aybar shouldn’t necessarily be seen as any indication about what might happen with Tuimoloau. Rather, his reclassification creates a potential opportunity for Ohio State to bring in one of its top 2022 defensive end targets one year early, allowing him to begin working with Larry Johnson this year and jump-start his development.

Neal announces commitment date

Another Ohio State defensive line target who will be announcing his commitment sooner than later is 2022 defensive tackle Curtis Neal, who announced Monday that he will make his commitment announcement at 3 p.m. on June 27. He hinted on Wednesday that his commitment decision has already been made:

That announcement came just one day after Neal’s official visit to Ohio State concluded, and the former teammate of Ohio State running back Evan Pryor still has a graphic from Ohio State as his Twitter profile picture. That said, Neal also recently made an official visit to Wisconsin, who has been trending as the potential frontrunner in his recruitment.

One of Ohio State’s top targets in the 2023 recruiting class, five-star running back Treyaun Webb, also hinted this week that he will be dropping some news on July 4. Whether that will be a commitment, a top schools list or something else entirely is uncertain, but any announcement from Webb could bear watching for Ohio State after he made an unofficial visit to the Buckeyes last week.

Owens decommits from Texas

Another five-star running back who could be a target for Ohio State’s recruiting class of 2023, Rueben Owens II, is now officially back on the board after he announced Thursday that he had decommitted from Texas.

Owens was expected to visit Ohio State this week, but did not end up making the trip to Columbus. Now that he’s no longer committed to the Longhorns, though, there will surely be even more effort from Tony Alford on the Buckeyes to get him to Ohio State for a visit, as the Buckeyes have positioned themselves in the thick of the recruitment for all three five-star running backs in the class, also including Webb and Richard Young.

Ohio State adds a seventh camp

Originally, next Tuesday’s camp at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center was set to be Ohio State’s sixth and final high school football camp of the June recruiting period. Now, however, the Buckeyes will actually be holding seven high school football camps this month – and the last one will be inside the Shoe.

Just as it has for the past two weeks, Ohio State will now be holding back-to-back camps on Tuesday and Wednesday once again next week, with the Wednesday camp being held at Ohio Stadium – marking the first time Ohio State will hold a high school football camp inside the Shoe since the 2017 edition of Friday Night Lights, which has not been held since Ryan Day became head coach. (The last Friday Night Lights in 2018 was held at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center due to inclement weather.)

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