Better Know a Buckeye: Jayden Bonsu Brings Versatility, Hard-Hitting Ability and Speed to Jim Knowles’ Three-Safety Defense

By Josh Poloha on June 8, 2023 at 11:35 am
Jayden Bonsu

Better Know A Buckeye is our look at every member of Ohio State’s 2023 recruiting class and how they became Buckeyes as they prepare to begin their OSU careers this fall.

One of three safeties in Ohio State's 2023 recruiting class, Jayden Bonsu was ranked as the No. 24 safety (No. 273 overall) in his class and is the lone player from the state of New Jersey for the Buckeyes this cycle.

Jayden Bonsu

  • Size: 6-1/210
  • Position: S
  • School: St. Peter's Prep (Hillside, New Jersey)
  • 247 Composite: ★★★★
  • Composite Rank: #24 S
  • Overall Rank: #273

How He Became A Buckeye

A late bloomer on the recruiting front, Bonsu didn't receive his first Division I offer until Oct. 8, 2022. Two months later, he had received 15 more.

Bonsu became a top priority for Ohio State after five-star Caleb Downs committed to Alabama. After a couple of visits to Columbus, the Buckeyes seemed to do enough to get the momentum over Miami, who had been the favorite to land Bonsu.

He first visited Ohio State in the spring of 2022 and spent time with fellow St. Peter’s Prep alum and current OSU linebacker Cody Simon.

“When I was there, he was telling me about how a normal day would go at Ohio State, and how the experience is,” Bonsu told Eleven Warriors of his March visit. “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.”

After changing his commitment date multiple times, Bonsu committed to the Buckeyes on Aug. 14 of last year, two months after his official visit to Columbus. He would become the third and final safety in Ohio State’s 2023 class.

“It was really close," Bonsu said of his decision to pick the Buckeyes over Miami. "But me and my family re-evaluated it and came down to a decision ... My relationship with coach Eliano and coach Day was second to none. Being in Columbus felt like home to me.”

High School Years

Showing off his versatility as a safety after transferring to St. Peter's Prep (Hillside, New Jersey) prior to his junior season, Bonsu's recruitment heated up significantly after he recorded 62 total tackles (7.5 for loss), 2.5 sacks, two interceptions and eight pass deflections in his third high school season. He not only filled up the stat sheet, but he was also the quarterback of the defense, tasked with calling out coverages to the rest of the defense in his first season at St. Peter's.

As a senior, Bonsu had 70 tackles (4.5 for loss), 2.5 sacks and an interception in 10 games. He was once again able to showcase his big-hitting and tacking ability, anticipation, speed and versatility on the back end of the defense.

Immediate Impact

With Ohio State's depth chart at safety loaded with the likes of Josh Proctor, Lathan Ransom, Ja'Had Carter, Sonny Styles, Cameron Martinez and Kourt Williams, among others, Bonsu will have plenty of time to learn Knowles' defense and fine-tune his game before he gets significant playing time.

While he has already shown at the high school level he can play all three safety positions, he’s likely to need some time develop at the collegiate level before Ohio State trusts him to play on the back end with the game on the line.

Long-Term Impact

With Proctor entering his final year of eligibility and Ransom a candidate to enter the 2024 NFL draft, Bonsu should have a chance to compete for a spot on the two-deep next year.

There’s also a chance that Bonsu, who is already 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds, could eventually move to linebacker. But he may be valuable as a versatile safety who can also move down and play in the box situationally, much like how Ohio State plans to use Styles this year.

“He played multiple spots last year, which I usually never ask a transfer to do,” St. 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 believes Bonsu is capable of making the transition to linebacker if Ohio State eventually decides to move him there, though.

“He definitely does have a skill set to do both,” Hansen said. “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.” 

Bonsu has said he has the "most fun" playing nickel, but he wouldn't mind playing any position in the defensive backfield.

“(Perry Eliano) told me how he sees me fitting in the scheme and how my character fits Ohio State,” Bonsu said. “He told me I’m a versatile player just in general. He feels like I can play any of the safety positions."

A potential future for Ohio State could see Bonsu playing nickel safety with Styles at strong safety and Malik Hartford or Kye Stokes at free safety, which would give Knowles and the defensive coaching staff plenty of opportunities to move things around in the defensive backfield given all of their versatility and athleticism.

Player Comparison: Ronnie Hickman

Similar in size, a versatile safety that could play a hybrid role *and* from New Jersey, the comparison was easy for this one. It became even easier when Hansen, who coached against Hickman at the high school level, compared Bonsu to Hickman as well.

“I think they share a unique combination of size and speed and athleticism,” Hansen told Eleven Warriors. “They’re the type of guys that have bodies that you’re looking for. I think there’s a lot there. To me, I think (Jayden) is a big physical safety, but also has that positional flexibility where at our level or the next level he can play wherever you ask him. A lot like Ronnie had to do (in 2021) for Ohio State because of the injuries and different stuff that was going on on the defensive side of the ball for Ohio State. (Jayden is) a similar kid that will never, ever second-guess what coaches are asking of him and skill set-wise can play everything.”

Hickman started 26 games in his final two years as a Buckeye and racked up 152 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, one sack, zero passes defended, three interceptions and one touchdown during that span, earning second-team All-American honors in 2022.

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