COLUMBUS — It always seemed like Jaylen Johnson‘s commitment to Ohio State was an inevitability, but the talented defensive back prospect from Cincinnati La Salle High School had planned on waiting until the summer of 2020 to make a decision.
That is no longer the case. He’s committed to the Buckeyes and added a little more steam to an Ohio State recruiting machine that has begun to turn its attention almost exclusively to the Class 0f 2021.
“Our bond has always been strong,” Johnson told Lettermen Row in October. “But now, since I’m officially a junior, we talk and text every day. There’s not a time when I’m not texting or talking to [Ryan] Day or [Ohio State linebackers coach Al] Washington.”
It was those relationships, combined with the chance to line up and play at home in Ohio, that ultimately led to Johnson’s decision.
Lettermen Row breaks down the earlier-than-expected decision from Johnson and what his commitment means to the Buckeyes, the Big Ten and more.
What Jaylen Johnson gives Ohio State on the field
When Ohio State offered Johnson this past June, it was because the 6-foot-1, 205-pound prospect showed up in Columbus for a one-day camp with the Buckeyes and showed them in person exactly what he could do and who he was.
Fast, aggressive and physical, Johnson is a perfect fit to eventually develop into the Buckeyes “Bullet” position, a linebacker with the speed to cover wide receivers and tight ends downfield.
A key contributor on Division 2 state champion Cincinnati La Salle High School, Johnson is just scraping the limits of his potential. He’s instinctive and has a unique ability to plant his foot and get to full speed ahead for his age. There’s no half-speed for Jaylen Johnson and his willingness to put himself on the line in front of the Buckeyes coaches in June was a telltale sign of who he is.
There’s simply nothing the Ohio State coaches want more from a prospect than for him to compete. To be willing to be uncomfortable. Johnson showed he had the mental make up to be a Buckeye.
“Coach Washington told me one thing,” Johnson said. “He said that I’m one of the hardest workers he’s ever seen. [Jeff] Hafley told me that too. Knowing coming into that camp I was going to have to work hard, to show coaches I can run, jump and move my hips, to just play football.”
Johnson will need to continue growing in coverage roles and responsibility but every tool is present to become an All-Big Ten type of player. He was excellent in coverage against Ohio State commitment Jayden Ballard in the state championship game against Massillon so it’s clear that he’s capable of being very good in that role if he’s needed to be the deep safety in the Buckeyes defensive plans.
What pickup means for Ohio State 2021 recruiting class
Johnson is Ohio State’s eighth commitment in the Class of 2021 and the fifth Ohio junior to pick the Buckeyes already in that cycle.
The Buckeyes have made recruiting the state of Ohio a focus and with Johnson joining Reid Carrico and Jack Sawyer as defensive commits, it appears to be paying off. Cincinnati La Salle is a big-time talent producing program and it never hurts to make sure that the best players from the best programs matriculate to Columbus.
Ohio’s No. 11-ranked prospect according to the 247Sports.com composite rankings, Johnson had 15 scholarship offers at the time of his decision. He picked the Buckeyes over Penn State, Michigan State, Kentucky, Cincinnati and others but it felt obvious from the day the Buckeyes offered that he’d eventually land in Columbus.
A priority recruit for linebackers coach Al Washington and Ohio State, the decision by Jaylen Johnson will likely close the door on the chances that of Virginia’s Bryce Steele, who plays the same spot as Johnson, ends up in Columbus. North Carolina should be the benefactor of that choice.
With Johnson in the fold, Ohio State expands its lead over Notre Dame as the nation’s top-ranked 2021 recruiting class. Johnson joins quarterback Kyle McCord, receivers Jayden Ballard and Marvin Harrison, tight end Sam Hart, offensive lineman Ben Christman, defensive lineman Jack Sawyer and linebacker Reid Carrico in the commitment column for the Buckeyes.
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