Ryan Day flashed a smile Saturday afternoon.
The Ohio State head coach briefly stopped supervising his team's warm-ups an hour prior to kickoff of what would eventually be a 59-31 win over Purdue to greet the newest commitment of the 2023 class: Sonny Styles.
Styles, a five-star safety/linebacker that was the Buckeyes' highest priority recruit in the cycle, committed to Ohio State in person Saturday during his third game day visit to OSU this season, which came after he visited Ohio State four times in the summer.
A week before his commitment, Styles visited Notre Dame, his other top suitor and the school where his brother Lorenzo Styles Jr. plays. In the end, Styles followed his heart and picked his hometown Buckeyes over the allure of playing with his brother.
Standing near Ohio Stadium's north end zone shortly before watching his future team play, Styles – the son of former Ohio State linebacker Lorenzo Styles – hung out on the sideline with two of the Buckeyes’ other priority recruits: 2022 linebacker commit C.J. Hicks and 2023 offensive line target Luke Montgomery. He had been in that same spot before twice this year. Only this time, he stood proud knowing he is a future Buckeye.
On The Field
In Styles' prep career at Pickerington Central, the 6-foot-4, 215-pound standout has played primarily safety, although he’s also lined up in the box as a linebacker and even on the edge to rush the passer at times.
Styles is the rare hybrid athlete who will be capable of playing multiple positions on defense and thriving at each even when he arrives at Ohio State, though he could be a perfect fit for the bullet position in OSU's current defense. Although he is sized like a linebacker at 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, Styles has rare side-to-side agility for a prospect of that build. It isn't hard to envision him seeing the field right away in his freshman year; he's that talented.
One of his better games this year was against Central Crossing High School, where Styles returned an interception 100 yards for a defensive touchdown, blocked a punt and had several pass breakups.
Styles has seen his confidence grow in guarding wide receivers straight up, even spending time in man coverage against wideouts when necessary at Pickerington Central.
“I’ve improved in man-to-man coverage,” Styles told Eleven Warriors in August. “Last year when I would play deep safety, I used to come up a little. I’ve done a better job of staying up top. I just want to improve on being able to come down here, good angles, to be able to communicate with the whole team.”
The Pickerington Central standout camped with Ohio State twice this summer, once as a safety and once as a linebacker, so he's willing to play wherever needed – even long snapper, where he’s also been playing this season for the Tigers, who advanced to the regional finals of the Ohio high school playoffs with a win over Pickerington North on Friday night.
“Whatever helps the team win,” Styles said after Pickerington Central’s season opener. “If I’m the best one at it, I’m going to do it.”
Styles has also picked up several Division I offers as a basketball player. Though it's uncertain whether he’ll play basketball at Ohio State, Styles has expressed interest in being a dual-sport athlete.
“I’m not really sure,” Styles told Eleven Warriors in July of the prospect of being a multi-sport athlete in college. “I’m really trying to figure it out. Doing one sport is tough, so doing two would be even harder. I’m still trying to figure out how I want to do that.”
In The Class
While Styles is only Ohio State’s third commit in the 2023 cycle, the Buckeyes have now landed their top target, which is a pretty good feeling as Day and company will look to continue the recruiting momentum over the next few weeks.
Styles becomes the second in-state commit in the 2023 class, joining four-star offensive lineman Joshua Padilla, who committed to the Buckeyes nine days before Styles. Four-star Tennessee tight end Ty Lockwood was the first commit for the class.
Both Lockwood and Padilla have made it known they'll be vocal in recruiting other players to join the Buckeyes, but there's something about having a top-10 prospect in the nation reaching out to top prospects like five-star cornerback AJ Harris, Montgomery, linebacker Troy Bowles and wideout Carnell Tate that could convince them to team up with him in Columbus.
Styles has already become a leader for his Pickerington Central team, and now he’ll also be a leader for Ohio State’s class of 2023.
“I think I’m a leader,” Styles in August. “I think I lead by my play and as well as a vocal leader. Last year, I wasn’t really a vocal leader, so I’m trying to start being a more vocal leader.”
Ohio State beat out Notre Dame, Clemson, Ole Miss, Alabama, Florida, LSU, Michigan, Oklahoma, Penn State and Texas, among others, to land Styles.