Ohio State must replace two-year starter Damon Webb at free safety this season, and they may be doing it with junior Jordan Fuller, who was the starter at strong safety last year.
That may solve one problem, but it opens up another.
Five Buckeyes spent time this spring trying to fill Fuller’s open strong safety spot, but nobody completely succeeded. The need for depth and options was one of the reasons why sophomore Amir Riep made the move from cornerback to safety prior to the spring.
Riep came to Ohio State from Cincinnati Colerain, where he was the No. 26 cornerback in the 2017 recruiting class. Provided the move goes as expected, being a former cornerback makes him an ideal fit as a free safety in Ohio State’s defense.
“Amir Riep is a guy who moved over from corner,” safeties coach Alex Grinch said after spring ball. “Sometimes that transition is easy and sometimes it is hard, and a lot of times it’s somewhere in the middle.”
For Riep, things went pretty well. He showed his coaches much of what they wanted to see. The only thing missing is the experience required to emerge as a mature leader in the secondary.
“I think he probably exceeded our expectations in terms of that transition both from a mental standpoint and the things he was capable of doing athletically and physically at the safety spot,” Grinch said. “I think he’s where he should be.”
Ultimately, Amir Riep wants to show that he is one of the two best safeties on the roster. With Jordan Fuller’s experience at strong safety a year ago, if Riep is in the top two, there would definitely be room for him in the starting lineup.
That’s still a long way off, however. This summer has been important for Riep, and the fast-approaching fall camp will be as well. Progress is continual, and the work always goes on.
The Buckeyes need an answer next to Fuller, and while most have expected it to be sophomore Isaiah Pryor, people should not be overlooking Riep, who has only spent one spring camp at safety and quickly made an impression.
“Only 15 days of safety in his life,” Grinch said, before offering a caveat. “You have to understand that the standard doesn’t shrink to your experience level. He’s got some work to do there over summer and fall camp. But in fairness to him, that’s a tall order switching positions. Again, some real positives there coming out of spring.”