The Ohio State defense is ranked fourth in the nation in scoring, second in total defense, first in sacks, second in tackles for loss, 11th in interceptions, fourth in fumbles forced, and third in opponent third down percentage.
This is the best Buckeye defense in years and little doubt that it is one of the most exciting in recent memory.
Unless, of course, you’re the last line of defense.
They say it’s lonely at the top, but it can also be lonely at the back end of the Ohio State defense.
That’s the situation for the Buckeyes’ senior free safety Jordan Fuller, who is the last line of a Buckeye defense that hasn’t often allowed the ball to reach that line this season.
Fuller still leads the team with 32 tackles, but in this new Buckeye defense, he can often find himself with little to do.
“The whole defense, they take a lot of pressure off of me,” Fuller said this week. “I can feel a little bored at times because everybody is making plays in front of me.”
When the first line of defense includes defensive end Chase Young, the opportunities down the field are going to be lessened automatically. In fact, as Fuller said, the entire defense is to blame.
Fewer tackles are being missed and there are more players running to the ball. With more eyes on the football and more players available to peel off and make tackles, Fuller is left all alone. Essentially relegated to being the Buckeyes’ right fielder, Baby — if you will — has been put in a corner.
“He might as well just keep being bored then,” Shaun Wade said Tuesday, laughing at the notion.
Wade is correct. If the last line of a defense doesn’t see much action, then it means everybody else in front of him is doing what he’s supposed to be doing.
“Sometimes being bored isn’t a bad thing,” Jeff Okudah said. “At the same time, he also has two interceptions, so I feel like he’s getting a lot of balls thrown his way back there, whether it’s tips or overthrows. I know he’s going to take them all no matter how they come.”
Much has been written about the differences between last year’s defense and this year’s defense, and yet nobody has wondered how a player like Jordan Fuller has been impacted.
Compared to the results last season, however, Fuller’s loss is an acceptable gain.
At least so far.
“I think it speaks to the work we put in this whole offseason, trying to bring back BIA [Best In America] is what our goal has been,” said Okudah. “It speaks to the work we have put in.”
But it hasn’t just been the secondary staking its claim as the best in America. Right now, perhaps to Fuller’s feigned chagrin, the entire Ohio State defense has been playing at a level worthy of any moniker they want to wear.
“Everybody has been playing well from the D-line to linebackers to DBs,” Wade said. “Everybody has just been playing well. We just have to keep it consistent and keep it going.”
And maybe — just maybe — Jordan Fuller needs to bring a book to read every now and again.