Sonny Styles Ohio State Buckeyes Safety

‘Coachable’ Sonny Styles Willing To Do Whatever Is Asked

Sonny Styles played in every game last year for the Buckeyes, save for the season opener against Notre Dame. And he did it is as a true freshman who reclassified a year up, essentially skipping his senior year of high school.

Styles finished with nine tackles and a tackle for loss last season. It wasn’t an atypical freshman season, though Styles is certainly an atypical safety at 6-foot-4 and 222 pounds.

By the end of the year, however, Ohio State defensive coordinator Jim Knowles and safeties coach Perry Eliano were looking for more ways to use him. That culminated in him being on the field almost immediately against Georgia’s two-tight end attack in the College Football Playoff semifinals.

It was a long season for the Buckeyes, and one that Styles didn’t take for granted.

“I’m really glad that I reclassed,” Styles said this spring. “I think it gave me some confidence, gave me some maturity. And I feel like I’m in a really good place right now.

Looking back, he’d do the same thing all over again because he’s doing precisely what he wanted to do.

“I never second guessed it,” he said of reclassifying. “I knew why I came here early. I came here early to get better. I felt like coming here, I was going to get better every day. I was gonna go against the best every day. And I actually got a chance to play. I mean, I came here expecting to just get better. If I get a chance to play, I get a chance to play. I expected to get on special teams and go hard and do something for my team and play that role.”

Onward And Upward

This spring, Sonny Styles wanted to show that he was reliable and that he could do multiple things. Mostly, however, he was focused simply on doing his job.

During camp, he spent time with the twos at strong safety, and also played closer to the line of scrimmage as sort of a Sam linebacker. It’s the same thing he did last year, but he’s one year older now and he has a better grasp of what is being asked of him.

“Right now, I’m trying to just do two positions,” he explained. “Just trying to get good at one thing, you know? Not trying to just be okay at everything. I want to be good at one thing. Whatever Coach E puts in front of me, I focus on that.”

And the formula for more playing time this year is pretty simple.

“Yeah, I think it’s doing your job,” Styles said. “Whether it’s playing the deep third, whether it’s you’ve got to set the edge. So it can be a physical or mental thing. Just do your job. If you can’t do your job out here, you can’t expect him to put you out there to do your job on the big stage.”

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Building Confidence

The playoff game was a big confidence-booster for Sonny Styles. Despite being somebody who should have still been in high school, he was viewed as a difference maker by the Ohio State coaching staff in their plan of attack against the defending national champions.

That’s not an insignificant nod to where Styles is headed, and he has used it to motivate himself and prepare himself for this coming season.

“I definitely feel bigger and stronger. I didn’t gain too much weight, but I definitely feel stronger,” he said. “But I think the big thing was the mental part of it. Being able to get comfortable with the playbook where I’m able to tell other people what they’re doing, stuff like that. So that gives me a lot of confidence. And then obviously just that playing time, that does build confidence as well.”

Just like at the end of last season, the coaches have a plan for Styles this year as well. This spring involved experimenting with the defense with some different things they could do with Styles on the field.

Those experiments will continue, but the coaches are always going to be mindful of what they’re asking Styles to do.

“We’ve streamlined it for Sonny,” Eliano said. “So you’ll see Sonny more in a streamlined position to where he can excel and utilize his God-given up ability. The beauty of it now is year two, I’ve been around the guys, they’ve been around me, I know exactly what they are, and where their strengths are. And we’re continuing to close the gap on their challenges. Now he’s 18 years old, with his first full spring, and he’s excelling. And the beauty of it is, like I said, he’s coachable. He understands the game of football, and he’s hungry to continue to get better each and every day.”

And that hunger continues to drive Styles straight down the road.

“I just want to show that I’m reliable,” he said. “And whatever you ask me to do, I can do it.”

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