One year ago, Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano spent the spring and summer watching sophomore Jordan Fuller and senior Erick Smith compete to replace Malik Hooker as the Buckeyes’ strong safety.
That competition didn’t wrap up in time for the season opener, and in fact it continued a little ways into the season.
Fuller started every game for the Buckeyes, but there was some rotating between him and Smith a few games into the season.
Eventually, Fuller distanced himself and became one of Ohio State’s best players.
This year, Fuller has slid over to free safety and now the battle to replace him at strong safety is being waged by sophomore Isaiah Pryor and redshirt sophomore Jahsen Wint.
Like last year, it’s going to take Schiano — and safeties coach Alex Grinch — a little bit longer to determine the winner of that job.
“I think it’s been a great competition which has raised both Isaiah and Jahsen’s game,” Schiano said on Monday. “They’re both going to play. And if you remember last year when we started the season with Jordan and Erick, right, they both played and then Jordan pulled away and became the starter and became a really fine starter as we know.
“So I don’t know if that will happen, or if all season long those guys will go back and forth. But whatever happens, I’ve said this to you guys before, you can’t make it happen, you got to let it happen. Now you encourage and you coach and you teach, but at the end of the day they have to go out there and play their way into a position.”
Playing alongside them in the spring and throughout fall camp, Fuller has seen both the best and worst of Pryor and Wint.
“They both progressed greatly this whole camp and this game week,” Fuller said. “I’m really excited for both of their years. It’s a tight competition, we’ll see how it all shakes out on Saturday, but I’m more than good with whoever is playing.”
Fuller has seen growth in each player even since the spring, which gives him confidence that their respective trajectories will continue.
He knows that if they just follow their training and do the job they have been working for, they’ll be okay.
Along with trying to keep their heads level and focused on the task at hand, Fuller has also tried to explain the urgency of the situation.
Saturday is coming and they need to be ready.
“I just try to tell them sometimes you can get caught up in ‘okay, we have practice today, we have practice, I’m going against Ohio State,’ but I mean I always tell them to try to keep in the back of their minds, you’re playing in The Shoe in a couple of weeks and four days now so this stuff is getting real and it’s finally here,” Fuller said.
“You can see it, you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. They’ve been doing a great job with that.”