Jordan Fuller’s first year as a starter in the Ohio State secondary went pretty well. He began the 2017 season in a sharing role with senior Erick Smith at strong safety, but he was always the starter and eventually the sharing went away.
Fuller finished second on the team with 70 tackles, just two behind linebacker Jerome Baker for the team lead. His 57 solo tackles were the most by a Buckeye this past season, and it was tied for sixth-most in the Big Ten. The last two OSU safeties with at least 57 solo tackles were First-Team All-Americans Vonn Bell (57) and Mike Doss (65).
Having the terrifying privilege of replacing another All-American in Malik Hooker is an unwinnable task, but Fuller played well throughout the season and was never a weak link for the Buckeyes. He teamed with senior Damon Webb for a very talented safety duo, protecting the back end of the Ohio State defense.
Now, however, with Webb and cornerback Denzel Ward off to the NFL, Fuller’s responsibilities have begun to grow.
“Me being the oldest and the one with the most experience, I am just really trying to work on my leadership from that standpoint,” he said recently.
As the season wore on, Fuller was one of the Buckeyes’ most consistent players. His play late in the season — including the game-capping interception at Michigan — left many onlookers impressed. That momentum will continue into 2018, but the example set by Webb and Ward has also given him a positive path.
“Really just seeing the way they work and the way they produce on the field makes me want to try and replicate that the best that I can,” he said. “Try to uphold the standard of our defensive back group, that is the impact they have on me.”
Playing behind Webb as a true freshman in 2016 and then alongside him as a sophomore in 2017, Fuller has made strides each year. Being in the two-deep as a true freshman was impressive. Nearly leading the Buckeyes in tackles in his first season as a starter was even better.
And now what lies ahead for Jordan Fuller could be the best yet.
“I feel like I am on a pretty good path,” he said. “There is definitely more stuff that I could have done, but right now I feel like I am on a good path and I just have got to keep enhancing what I am doing and getting better every day.”
Fuller is now the vocal leader in the Ohio State secondary. He will be barking out orders, but he believes he is ready. He was arguably the best tackler on the team this past season, which has only helped his confidence as he takes another step forward. The confidence others had in him has helped as well.
By enhancing and improving each day, the goal is to be as productive as guys like Malik Hooker were before him. Granted, Hooker may have produced the single greatest season for a Buckeye defensive back ever, but for an OSU safety there is no better target to shoot for.
“Exactly,” he said. “That is the standard.”