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Ohio State reels in its top overall target in 2023

The Buckeyes struck gold this weekend as they landed a five-star in-state standout prior to kickoff against Purdue.

Sonny Styles
Tom Loy, 247Sports

Coming into the weekend, Ohio State’s 2023 recruiting class featured just two commitments in four-star tight end Ty Lockwood of Independence (TN) and four-star interior offensive lineman Joshua Padilla of Wayne (OH). However, on Saturday the Buckeyes hit one out of the park as they landed their consensus No. 1 target overall in the class moments before the eventual routing of Purdue.

Bucks land top 2023 target

After offering way back in August of last year, Ohio State was able to outlast the likes of Notre Dame for their top target overall in the 2023 class when five-star safety Sonny Styles of Pickerington Central (OH) announced his commitment to the Buckeyes on Saturday.

While the Buckeyes ultimately up-ended the Fighting Irish for Styles, they also were able to withstand programs like Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, LSU, Michigan State, North Carolina, and Ole Miss getting the 6-foot-4, 215-pounder on campus for a firsthand opportunity to impress him.

For the Buckeyes, the addition of Styles can not be understated. One would assume that the latest Ohio State commit will quickly assume the “Captain Buckeye” role in the 2023 class much like 2022 five-star linebacker C.J. Hicks of Archbishop Alter (OH) did for this year’s recruiting class. As for what he can bring on the gridiron, 247Sports’ National Recruiting Analyst Allen Trieu projects Styles as a future first round pick at the highest level, and compares him to former Clemson linebacker and now Arizona Cardinal Isaiah Simmons.

“(Styles) is a physical prototype with height, length and already well into his physical development as a high school junior. Strong in his lower body. Changes directions and runs straight line very well for a player of his size. Smooth in his transitions and is capable of playing in space and even covering man to man at 210 pounds. Shows good ball skills and hands. The question is, long term, will he grow into an outside linebacker even though he has the athletic skills to play safety, or will be some kind of hybrid? If he is to move into the box, he will have to show he can take on blocks and be physical with offensive linemen and lead blockers. Likelihood is he continues to grow towards being in the front seven, but will be a unique athlete at that spot who can still move around and play different roles. The possibilities for him are numerous because of a rare skill set and measurables.”

Styles is currently slotted in as the No. 8 player overall in the 2023 recruiting class, and holds the top spot at both the safety position and among all prospects in Ohio. The elite in-state talent was in Columbus this weekend along with the aforementioned Hicks and 2023 four-star offensive lineman Luke Montgomery of Findlay (OH) — another top in-state target for the Buckeyes.

Four-star DL sets “dream school” visit

With Ohio State set to host another ranked opponent this coming Saturday in Michigan State, one would expect another favorable turnout amongst prospects that the Buckeyes are monitoring. One prospect that will definitely be in attendance is 2023 four-star defensive lineman AJ Hoffler of Woodward Academy (GA), according to Garrick Hodge of Eleven Warriors.

In the conversation with Hodge, the Atlanta native revealed that the Buckeyes are his “dream school.” Hoffler did not hold back when discussing the upcoming trip to Columbus, and you can see just how interested he is in the program. “I can’t wait to get up to The Shoe and find out what it’s like on a game day and get to meet [Ohio State defensive line coach Larry] Johnson and coach Ryan Day,” Hoffler told Eleven Warriors.

While an offer from the Buckeyes has yet to come for Hoffler, he does currently hold offers from an impressive amount of programs, including Auburn, Indiana, Iowa State, Kentucky, Michigan, Michigan State, Ole Miss, Tennessee, Utah, and many more. Hoffler is currently listed as the 28th-highest graded prospect from the state of Georgia and a Top 50 defensive lineman in 2023.

Quick Hits

  • While it was reported last week that 2023 four-star offensive tackle Payton Kirkland of Dr. Phillips (FL) would be making a visit to Ohio State for the contest against Michigan State, the 6-foot-5, 330-pounder confirmed as much on Friday when he tweeted about the upcoming stop to Columbus. Kirkland, who has already secured an offer from the Buckeyes, is currently graded as the No. 122 prospect overall and the ninth highest graded OT in his class.
  • The aforementioned Hicks, Montgomery, and Styles weren’t the only prospects roaming the sidelines during Ohio State’s victory over Purdue on Saturday. Also in attendance for the offensive explosion by the home team was 2023 three-star defensive lineman Will Smith Jr. of Dublin Coffman (OH). The visit for Smith marks the second game day visit to check out the Buckeyes in as many months, as the legacy prospect also took in the victory over Maryland just a handful of weeks ago.