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Will Sonny Styles be the key to taking Ohio State’s defense to the next level?

Styles has had a lot of people buzzing with his performance this Spring and Summer.

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

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The Ohio State defense will look to be much improved heading into the second season under Defensive Coordinator Jim Knowles.

And a key player in that system will be sophomore safety Sonny Styles.

Styles, hailing from Pickerington Central High School in Pickerington, Ohio, was the No. 27 overall recruit in the 2022 recruiting class. He was the No. 2 safety and the No. 3 player in the state of Ohio, only behind Penn State quarterback Drew Allar and Buckeye teammate CJ Hicks.

The 6-foot-4 215-pound safety was also a basketball standout, showcasing his athletic prowess in different sports.

Here is what Allen Trieu, a national recruiting analyst for 247 Sports, had to say about Styles coming out of high school.

“(Styles) is a physical prototype with height, and length and is already well into his physical development as a high school junior,” Trieu said. “He is strong in his lower body. Changes directions and runs a straight line very well for a player of his size. He is 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, in the 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. The likelihood is he continues to grow toward 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.”

He also said he has first-round pick potential and compared him to Arizona Cardinal and former Clemson Tiger Isaiah Simmons.

During his freshman season, Styles played in 10 games for the Buckeyes. He recorded five solo tackles, four assisted tackles, and one tackle for loss.

As the Buckeyes move into a season where the defense should be remarkably better (I said should be), Styles has already locked up a starting spot at the Nickel position, according to Knowles.

“That has been made mainly a third corner, DB type of spot for me,” Knowles told reporters.

“And then you get into a lot of situations where there’s still a tight end in that matchup there and not a slot. And then you’re kind of just trying to hold up with a nickel. And what I saw in Sonny is that he has the ability to play high safety, to play man coverage, but he also has the length and the toughness to play up close to the ball. So, you play him in that nickel, strike position, and now you have a lot more flexibility in terms of ‘OK, is he man on the slot, is he zone, is he inside, is he outside, is he blitzing off the edge?’

Knowles added that Styles “just creates a whole ‘nother dynamic.”

The Ohio State defense has been the reason the Buckeyes have not been able to truly compete for a title over the last three years and they have given up 87 points to Michigan over the last two years. There is a lot of young and new talent on the defense this season and Styles leads the way in that regard.