Ohio State has always been drawn to Jayden Bonsu’s versatility.
Since the Buckeyes began recruiting the three-star safety in December, Ohio State envisioned the 6-foot-2, 205-pound prospect being capable of playing all three safety positions in its defense.
Bonsu got onto Ohio State's radar after a breakout junior season at Saint Peter’s Prep (Hillside, New Jersey), a school he just transferred to last summer. He picked up nearly 20 Division I offers last fall as he recorded 62 total tackles (7.5 for loss), 2.5 sacks, two interceptions and eight pass deflections.
“He played multiple spots last year, which I usually never ask a transfer to do,” Saint Peter’s coach Rich Hansen told Eleven Warriors. “I usually ask them to master one thing before we ask them to do something else. He was able to really play all three safety spots, both high safety spots and the nickel spot.
“He’s big and physical, but he can still run really well. Everybody is looking for those guys that kind of have the best of both worlds in terms of length and physicality but still have those unique types of skill sets.”
Hansen likened Bonsu’s play style to current Ohio State safety Ronnie Hickman, who is also from New Jersey, because of his ability to play defensive back with the size to also line up in the box. The Saint Peter’s coach asked a lot of Bonsu in his first season, even tasking him with calling out coverages to the rest of the defense.
“I got to Saint Peter’s in the summer and our season started in August,” Bonsu said. “So from the end of June through July to August is when I had to learn. But I picked it up fast, I’m a student of the game. It shows that my coach trusts me a lot. It shows how he sees my character on the field. Not every safety calls the defense, so me being trusted by my coach to do that says a lot.”
There is a bit of a divide within the recruiting industry whether Bonsu will stay at safety in college or move to linebacker. Hansen believes Bonsu can maintain a lean enough frame to play safety at the collegiate level.
“That’s a really hard question,” Hansen said regarding what position Bonsu will play in college. “He definitely does have a skill set to do both. He’s been right around 200 pounds and is holding right there. So he has a super low body fat and is really lean, but he’s getting a lot stronger and still putting on some muscle but not necessarily putting on weight, which is interesting. I thought he was really going to put on a lot of weight just in our offseason program, but he really hasn’t done that.
“So I don’t know, it’s a great question. He did play a lot of nickel snaps last year and a lot of snaps really close to the box. So there’s no doubt in my mind that he could do that. But a lot of safeties are used in those types of roles, so I’m not sure if it’s a matter of what position he plays primarily or solely. It’s just a skill set to do multiple things.”
As for Bonsu himself, he’s open to playing whatever position his college coaches want him at.
“I’d do anything to help the teams that I play for,” Bonsu said of potentially playing linebacker at the next level.
Bonsu was a bit of a late bloomer on the national recruiting scene, not receiving his first Division I offer until Oct. 8, but then received 15 more offers over the next two months.
His recruitment doesn’t figure to last much longer. Bonsu hopes to make a college commitment by the end of the summer. On April 17, Bonsu narrowed his recruitment down to 10 teams: Ohio State, Alabama, Michigan State, Texas, Penn State, Oregon, USC, Miami, Oklahoma and Georgia.
While Bonsu said there is no clear front runner from those 10, he said Ohio State “is high on my list.”
The Buckeyes are one of two teams to have an official visit scheduled with Bonsu. He plans to visit Columbus June 17-19, a week after he takes an official visit to Michigan State.
“Just that atmosphere and how the players react to everyday life,” Bonsu said on what he’s looking forward to seeing on his official visit. “I don’t know if there will be a workout or anything over that weekend, but it’ll just come down to how I’m feeling there.”
Bonsu took his first visit to Ohio State in late March for a spring practice and came away intrigued by what he saw from the Buckeyes.
“We got there in the early morning, we drove down,” Bonsu said. “We saw the trophy room and walked around. Talked to the coaches and then we met up with coach (Perry) Eliano and had a meeting. I learned a lot from coach Eliano and he was talking about the game and how he sees me fitting in the scheme and how my character fits Ohio State. He told me I’m a versatile player just in general. He feels like I can play any of the safety positions.”
While Bonsu’s versatility is one of his strongest assets, he said he has the most fun playing the nickel and strong safety positions. But he feels like he can “play anything.”
During his March visit to Ohio State, Bonsu spent time with Saint Peter’s Prep alumnus and current Buckeye linebacker Cody Simon. While the two didn’t play together in high school, Simon passed along what he could to Bonsu.
“When I was there, he was telling me about how a normal day would go at Ohio State, and how the experience is,” Bonsu said. “It’s obviously different for everybody there, but he says Ohio State is definitely a great place and the people there are great to learn from and build relationships with.”
Eliano and Bonsu have kept in contact every week since the visit, and the OSU safeties coach visited Saint Peter’s Prep in late April during the spring evaluation period. In conversation, he continues to let Eliano know that Ohio State is high on his radar.
“We just catch up with each other and check in on how each other’s week’s going and stuff like that,” Bonsu said.
Bonsu doesn’t have a specific commitment date in mind as of yet. But it could come soon after he makes his official visits next month.
“Not necessarily, but narrowing it down will come within the next few weeks,” Bonsu said. “I’m going to go on my five official visits, and then from those five, I’ll make a top three. And then I’ll go from there.”