COLUMBUS — Ohio State head coach Ryan Day and defensive coordinator Jim Knowles left no doubt former 5-star recruit Sonny Styles will be a big part of OSU’s defense this season during a press conference on Tuesday on the first day of spring football practice for the Buckeyes.
Styles, the son of former OSU linebacker Lorenzo Styles, played for the Buckeyes last season in what would have been his senior year of high school before he reclassified himself as part of the 2022 recruiting class instead of 2023.
Without the benefit of spring practice, he played in 10 games, including getting 12 snaps on defense against Georgia in a College Football Playoff semifinal.
Much more is expected of him this season.
“You’ve seen what he can do in his first year. We’re always trying to find the first eleven guys and then we kind of build it from there,” Day said.
“From the role he played last year, reclassifying and coming in for the summer, I couldn’t have been more impressed with him. He’s got a great future ahead of him. I think he could do a lot of things for us. He is a playmaker, he’s going to play a lot of football for us.”
Knowles said, “When you look at the potential best 11 players for the 2023 defense he’s a guy that our staff is going to point at and say, ‘We need to find a way to get him in there.’
“He held his own in the semifinal. I think he’s just got all kinds of skills. We’re going to experiment with him in different places and see what’s best for Sonny and our defense. But he’s definitely on our mind and he will be all spring in terms of getting him into a position that’s effective for the defense,” he said.
Some other thoughts from Day:
• Picking a quarterback: The competition between Kyle McCord and Devin Brown to become OSU’s starting quarterback might go on until late August but here’s what Day said he looks for in deciding who will be his starter at that position:
“I think the first thing is leadership. At the end of the day it’s the quarterback’s job to lead the team and drive the team down the field and score touchdowns. Being that leader is critically important. I feel like we’re going to have a great supporting cast. The quarterback doesn’t need to be super-human, just do his job and make routine plays routinely and then it will build from there. The No.1 thing is leadership and toughness.”
• Freshman receivers: Marvin Harrison Jr., Emeka Egbuka and Julian Fleming are Ohio State’s top three receivers but their back-ups could be challenged by three 4-star freshmen who enrolled early and 5-star pass catcher Brandon Inniss, who won’t arrive until preseason practice, Day said.
Asked about last year’s freshman receivers, all 4-star recruits, he said, “The truth is they’re going to get really pushed by this freshman group. The three guys who came in (early) have made an impact already. We’re very impressed with them. And then Brandon is coming in this summer.”
• Nine sitting out: Because of injuries and rehab nine players are not expected to take part in spring practice.
That number might have grown to 10 on Tuesday when second-year receiver Caleb Burton reportedly suffered an unspecified injury on the indoor practice field at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.
The Buckeyes not expected to be involved in any contact activities this spring are: wide receivers Emeka Egbuka and Julian Fleming, linebackers Tommy Eichenberg and Mitchell Melton, running backs TreVeyon Henderson, Evan Pryor and T.C. Caffey, center Jakob James and safety Kourt Williams.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414.