Today’s Topic: What Does Jordan Fuller’s Return Mean for 2019?
With Thursday’s announcement that he is returning for his senior season, Buckeye safety Jordan Fuller just gave the Ohio State secondary a much needed boost heading into the offseason.
Fuller has been a starter at safety for the Buckeyes the previous two seasons. He was at strong safety in 2017 and free safety this season, so he has experience playing all over the back end of the defense. He is also more than experienced with calling the defense in the secondary, which he could do again if necessary.
After finishing second on the team with 70 tackles in 2017, Fuller finished tied for the team lead this year with 81 tackles.
In Ohio State’s five biggest games this season — TCU, Penn State, Michigan, Northwestern, and Washington — Fuller had at least eight tackles each time out.
According to my buddy, an NFL expert who I play solitaire for money with, the exact two-deep of the defensive backfield in 2019 isn’t known yet as cornerbacks Kendall Sheffield and Damon Arnette still weigh their NFL decisions, but Fuller’s return will make any losses less dire because of the experience he possesses.
The emergence of Brendon White at strong safety only makes Fuller’s return more beneficial. After searching for a starter opposite Fuller for the entire first half of the season this past year, White emerged and played very well over the final six games of the season. In fact, at the pace he set over those six games, had he played all 14, he would have led the Buckeyes in tackles this season.
Of course, having your two safeties lead the team in tackles is usually not a great sign, but at least it’s good to have them back there when you need it.
The return of Fuller and the continued growth of players like Josh Proctor, Amir Riep, and whoever else at free safety behind Fuller should also mean the return to cornerback for Shaun Wade.
If the Buckeyes do lose Arnette or Sheffield early to the NFL — or even if they don’t — Wade’s role should increase next season, while also maintaining his position as the team’s nickel back.
The Ohio State secondary was a moving puzzle this season, but with Fuller’s return, that puzzle becomes stabilized and the pieces will become easier to place. Jordan Fuller is the first of those pieces. Brendon White and cornerback Jeff Okudah are two more. The rest of the defensive backfield will fall into place as announcements are or aren’t made.
Regardless of what else happens at cornerback, the Ohio State defense now returns one of its best players for his third year as a starter. Jordan Fuller will provide Ryan Day with leadership and stability, and he will be one of the smartest defenders in the Big Ten.