Signed: Cincinnati’s Jaylen Johnson Has Potential to Be Versatile Piece for Ohio State Defense

By David Wertheim on December 16, 2020 at 7:11 am
Jaylen Johnson

LaSalle High School has been a powerhouse football program for the last decade and will have three defensive backs signing with FBS colleges today.

One of those, Jaylen Johnson, committed to the Buckeyes back in January of 2020 and, despite Ohio State not knowing if Johnson will be a safety or a linebacker, find themselves with one of the most versatile athletes in the state. 

The Johnson File

  • Class: 2021
  • Size: 6-foot-1/200 lbs.
  • Pos: S
  • School: LaSalle (Cincinnati, OH)
  • Composite Rating: ★★★
  • Composite Rank: 410 (29 S)

The three-star and No. 13 overall player in the state, Johnson's recruitment was relatively uneventful as he picked Ohio State about a year before he signed over early offers from Cincinnati, Iowa State and Michigan State. 

However, he actually waited longer than he wanted to in order to commit. First attempting to commit three days after Ohio State's loss to Clemson, the Buckeye staff told him they would not accept his commitment at that time and forced him to wait a bit longer as the staff talked it out amongst themselves.

Eventually, though, on Jan. 7, Buckeye linebackers coach Al Washington gave Johnson a call and gave him the good news: that his commitment to Ohio State would be accepted.

Johnson's LaSalle team got bounced in the state semifinals this year to fellow 2021 signee Jayden Ballard's Massillon Washington program. Ballard and Johnson are close friends, and will certainly continue that bond at Ohio State.

“It all started with the state championship last year and then I committed to Ohio State. We had that Buckeye Bash and we have the Buckeye group chat, and we talk every day so that bond is still there,” Johnson said. 

As mentioned, Ohio State is still definitively unsure whether Johnson will be a linebacker or a safety at the next level (or a hybrid), but could be used in a Pete Werner role, where he is frequently assigned to cover tight ends or running backs out of the backfield. 

Johnson is one of six Ohioans in the 2021 class, joining Jack Sawyer, Reid Carrico, Mike Hall, Ben Christman, and the aforementioned Ballard. This is not a fact that is lost on Johnson, someone who wanted to represent his home state.

“I was thinking about it, and I heard this game is a numbers game, and I was thinking I didn’t want anybody taking my spot at Ohio State and them reversing my offer because it’s one of my favorite schools,” Johnson told Eleven Warriors. “After that loss to Clemson, it really sparked me. I could see myself playing there in big games, making big plays for this team."

Listed as the nation's No. 29 player at the position and No. 409 overall prospect, Johnson is one of two safeties in the 2021 class, joining Tennessee's Andre Turrentine. If he ends up as a linebacker, he will play alongside Carrico, the lone 2021 linebacker to this point. 

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