In his first year as a starter last year, safety Jordan Fuller finished second on the Buckeyes in tackles (70), and his 57 solo tackles were sixth-most in the Big Ten.
Not bad for a sophomore.
Fuller proved himself on the field last season, replacing All-American Malik Hooker in admirable fashion. Hooker’s season was impossible to match, but Fuller was never the weak point for the defense. In fact, he was arguably the best tackler on the team.
Now a junior, he moved from strong safety to free safety in the spring, but is an ideal fit at either spot.
“I think Jordan right now as you look at it, kind of possesses the physical attributes you look for in a safety both in a size and stature standpoint and the speed and athleticism standpoint,” OSU co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Alex Grinch said.
At 6-foot-2 and 204 pounds, he has the size and physicality to match up with receivers and tight ends, and the speed and athleticism to defend slot receivers over the middle. He also showed himself to be a tremendous asset against the run last year.
Allowing him to be all things for the Ohio State defense, however, is the understanding of where everyone needs to be and when they need to be there.
“The other thing you always bear in mind that you can’t see is the guy walking through the door from a mental capability standpoint,” Grinch said. “He has an understanding of the defense, and I’ll use the term that he’s a master of the defense. He can fix issues. He can get other guys right from an alignment and call standpoint and he has the confidence to do so. And that comes from game reps.”
Fuller has always been a confident player, and that confidence comes from knowing his job. If there is a lack of confidence, it’s for good reason. Fuller, however, is able to lead by example and by being vocal. His teammates trust him because he’s earned it. He showed last season that he was reliable. He found himself in a position battle in spring and fall camp, but he never got caught up in the competition. Through it all, he was only ever focused on the task at hand.
That mental focus came through in his play, as did the rest of his skill set. And when you combine all of it, you can understand why Alex Grinch is excited about the possibilities.
“When you add all those things up, the physical tools, the athletic tools, and then the mental aptitude, you’re talking about a guy who is an established starter and a guy we’re looking forward to come fall,” he said.