Lorenzo Styles Jr. In Line to Redshirt for Ohio State This Season, Preserving His Two Remaining Years of Eligibility

By Dan Hope on October 31, 2023 at 6:00 pm
Lorenzo Styles Jr.

From the moment Lorenzo Styles Jr. announced he was transferring to Ohio State to play cornerback, a redshirt seemed like the most logical move to preserve his two remaining seasons of eligibility.

Ryan Day confirmed Tuesday that a redshirt is in the cards for the junior defensive back after playing in just three of Ohio State’s first eight games this season.

“He's got one more game to play in. The plan is for him to play in one more game. And then kind of go from there,” Day said. “So we just felt like if we needed him and there was an emergency that we were going to put him in the game. Other than that, we were going to try to hold this year for him to learn the position, get better. Play in those four games and then keep that redshirt.”

Before the season started, Styles told reporters that redshirting this season was not his vision for his first year as a Buckeye. Styles expressed optimism that he could make an immediate impact on defense during multiple media interviews this summer.

“I'm working to be a starter. I'm working to be one of the best corners in the country. And I think that's just my mindset, trying to attack that every single day,” Styles said in July. “No matter what it really looks like right now, that's my ultimate goal.”

It became apparent over the past two months, however, that a significant role at cornerback this season was unlikely to materialize for Styles. Denzel Burke and Davison Igbinosun have played the vast majority of snaps at outside cornerback over Ohio State’s first eight games. Jordan Hancock has emerged as the Buckeyes’ nickel cornerback while also playing snaps outside when needed. Jermaine Mathews Jr. is the next man up after them, proving he could be relied upon to play meaningful snaps at cornerback when he filled in for Burke against Penn State.

If Ohio State wasn’t redshirting Styles, he’d likely be playing in every game on special teams. In the three games he has played for the Buckeyes this season against Indiana, Notre Dame and Penn State, Styles has played 39 combined snaps on special teams, lining up on both the kickoff and punt coverage teams as well as the kickoff and punt return units.

Redshirting Styles this season, though, gives him a better chance of making a meaningful impact on defense before his Ohio State career is over. Styles is a candidate to be on the cornerback two-deep next season and potentially even compete for a starting job with Burke likely to be an early-round pick in the 2024 NFL draft. But playing in more than four games this year would leave Styles with just one remaining year of collegiate eligibility and minimal experience playing the position he hopes can lead to an NFL career of his own.

Styles made the switch to cornerback this offseason after playing wide receiver for two years at Notre Dame, where he saw substantial playing time as a freshman and sophomore. While Styles said he enjoyed his two seasons with the Fighting Irish, he felt a move from offense to defense and from South Bend to Columbus would bolster his chances of playing professionally.

“I thought I had the best opportunity to have a long career in the NFL as a corner. And I think I have the highest ceiling at that position,” Styles said in July. “I think my skill set fits really well. I'm explosive. I'm fast. I'm pretty long. I can run. So I think just trying to have that translate to the defensive side of the ball would be pretty effective.”

What exactly Styles can bring to Ohio State as a cornerback will remain uncertain until he actually plays a collegiate snap at that position, which seems unlikely to happen this year. The possibility remains that Styles could be called into service in the secondary if injuries occur – that possibility may have increased slightly with Lathan Ransom’s injury at Wisconsin, which likely means Hancock playing full-time at nickel and Lorenzo’s younger brother Sonny Styles playing strong safety as long as Ransom is sidelined – but otherwise, it seems likely Styles will make his final game appearance of the season on special teams either against Michigan or in a postseason game.

Although Styles made one costly error on special teams against Penn State when a Nittany Lions punt hit his foot, resulting in a recovery for Penn State, he’s also drawn praise for how he’s performed on special teams this year, earning Ohio State’s special teams player of the game award after his Buckeye debut against Indiana. And the games he has played in have created some special moments for the Styles brothers, as they’ve lined up together on the kickoff and punt teams.

“The first kickoff was a pretty cool moment,” Sonny Styles said last week in reference to the Penn State game. “He's probably gonna redshirt this year, so he's not playing every single game. So for that to be one of his games and us to be out there together, it's a super cool moment, I think something you gotta cherish.”

Lorenzo Styles Jr. and Sonny Styles
Lorenzo Styles Jr. and Sonny Styles are in their first year playing together at the collegiate level after Lorenzo’s transfer from Notre Dame over the summer.

Styles is now one of two Ohio State non-freshmen with a confirmed plan to redshirt this season. Day said in early October that Ohio State was looking to redshirt sophomore running back Dallan Hayden this year, and while he said the Buckeyes would consider deviating from that plan after Hayden ran for 76 yards and a touchdown on just 11 carries in his second game appearance of the season against Purdue, the redshirt plan remains in place for now as Hayden did not play any snaps against Penn State or Wisconsin.

At least two other sophomores who did not redshirt as true freshmen in 2022 appear likely to join them in redshirting. Wide receiver Kojo Antwi has played in just one game this season while safety Kye Stokes has not played at all, so both of them are in line to redshirt by default unless an unexpected role materializes over the final month of the regular season.

One other sophomore who remains a potential candidate to redshirt this season is cornerback Jyaire Brown, as he has played in just three games this year and has been listed as unavailable for two of Ohio State’s last four games. Like Lorenzo Styles, whether Brown plays in more than one more game this season could depend on whether the Buckeyes need to play more depth in the secondary, as he has the potential to contribute at both cornerback and nickel. Unless that need arises, though, it could be logical for the Buckeyes to limit Brown to just one more game this year and preserve his three remaining seasons of eligibility.

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