There is a bit of irony to one of Ohio State’s deepest positions also being one of its biggest question marks.
The Buckeyes will take the field this season having five safeties with starting experience, which wouldn’t include sophomore Josh Proctor, who may have the most potential of any safety on the OSU roster.
Senior Jordan Fuller returns for his third year as a starter. Junior Brendon White, who started next to Fuller over the second half of last season, has moved to Bullet, but will still line up at safety on passing downs.
Junior Isaiah Pryor started seven games last season, fourth-year junior Jahsen Wint started twice, and so did redshirt sophomore Shaun Wade.
Wade spent the spring as the No. 1 strong safety, while Pryor was the No. 1 free safety. Fuller, however, was out while recovering from an injury. He will eventually be starting somewhere, which will then shake almost everything up that took place in the spring.
Fuller still isn’t completely healthy, though he will be by fall camp. Until he is full speed, the entire safety room is in a state of flux.
“He is running forward a little bit, he is able to do some stuff at half-speed, but he looks good doing it,” secondary coach Jeff Hafley said of Fuller. “Great kid. You guys probably know him better than I do right now. But from meeting with him, what a super human being who does so much more than just play football.”
In speaking with the media this month, Hafley was asked who would be lining up next to Fuller if he was healthy right now.
“That is to be determined,” he said. “I would like to stay pretty consistent with everything that I talk to you guys about, so it is real. I think we are going to play the 11 best players and figure it out from there. I think that is what training camp will be for.”
Ohio State’s new defense features one deep safety in the middle of the field and one safety in slot on standard downs. On passing downs — or against passing teams — there will generally be two deep safeties. Jordan Fuller has experience and confidence in playing all of those roles, so his future position may ultimately be determined by something like Shaun Wade being better at strong safety than Isaiah Pryor is at free safety.
That’s the kind of thing that Hafley means when he cites the best 11. And next month when training camp gets underway, everybody is going to have an opportunity to show that they belong.
“All those guys are in the mix,” Hafley said. “I mean that, it is not just like media talk. Look at the skill that we have there, ‘go out and compete’ for all of those guys. Go out there and play ball. Whoever has the best training camp… we as coaches have got to decide where to put them and get them on the field. I am going to be consistent with that, and that is how I talk to the players, and that is how I will be honest with you guys, and then that is what we have to do, that is our jobs.”
Some players closed spring in an impressive fashion, which may have given them some momentum heading into the summer. It’s not easy to continue that momentum, but it is good that Hafley saw a guy like Jahsen Wint show out with a pair of impressive interceptions in the spring game at Bullet/safety.
“If you look at a guy like Wint, not to say that he made the biggest improvement, because he did not even practice that much,” Hafley said. “He gets into the spring game and he starts making all those plays. That really excites you. But we did not get a whole body of work with him, so I am really excited to see what he can do.
“Even a guy like Pryor, I did not see him do too much and he showed up. Proctor, same type of deal. Proctor did not have much film at all that I got to see. He did some good stuff. You guys can see that I am excited talking about some of those guys. I am really excited to see what they can do during training camp, what can they do when things get hard, when they get tired, and things get going fast.”