Jordan Fuller was more than just a muti-year captain and starter for the Ohio State secondary.
He was the eraser. If a running back leaked through into the secondary, Fuller was there to make the play. If a slant route could have gone the distance, Fuller made sure that didn’t happen with a saving tackle.
Now, he’s off to the Los Angeles Rams in the NFL, and the task to replace his production on the field and leadership in the locker room won’t be easy. Luckily for the Buckeyes, Fuller has some suggestions on who could be the perfect fit to take over his spot.
“I would say at safety, definitely Josh Proctor and Marcus Hooker,” Fuller said during his NFL Combine interview. “My boy Bryson Shaw is definitely gonna turn some heads, too. Really, there’s so much talent in the room, I can’t even quantify it. But I would say, whoever’s able to lock in the most into their job and to sacrifice the most for the team is gonna make the biggest impact… I’m telling you, there’s a lot of talent.”
Ohio State is always going to have talent, but can those guys be the ones to replace Fuller? Lettermen Row is exploring all options and making a pick as to who will be the next Ohio State starting safety.
Ohio State options
Josh Proctor: There’s been plenty of hyping up Josh Proctor, who has become a trendy pick to truly break out on an Ohio State defense that once again should be loaded with talent. Proctor was on the field for much of the Big Ten title game and Fiesta Bowl, but those were different kinds of appearances than being the full-time starting safety. Can Proctor finally become a superstar in the back end of the defense? This season might be his best shot.
Marcus Hooker: After taking a redshirt during his first season at Ohio State, Hooker began to work his way onto the field last year. He started all 14 games on special teams and saw defensive action in seven games. He showed up on the field later in the season, proving that he was steadily getting better as the year went on. It’s still to be determined whether he can be the true ballhawk his brother was a few years ago, but his chance is coming soon. Can he take the job Fuller had last year and make it his own?
Bryson Shaw: Only a three-star prospect out of high school, Shaw redshirted last season and saw the field in three games. He had tackles against both Maryland and Rutgers, gaining some experience in Big Ten games. He might not be a leading candidate to get the job, but his name was brought up by Fuller in February as somebody who should be on radar. That has to count for something.
Ronnie Hickman: Hickman is the wild card of the group because he was injured during his senior year of high school and was forced to take a redshirt last season. He wasn’t able to practice. Could he make a quick and surprising rise in the depth chart this fall? Possibly, but he hasn’t had the experience others in the room carry.
Kourt Williams: An early enrollee, Williams was supposed to go through his first spring camp with the Buckeyes and get a step ahead on everything in the program. But the shutdown has him sitting at home instead of in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. Ohio State has more experienced options, so maybe Williams time will come down the road instead of this season. Or maybe he’ll surprise everyone and turn from a hybrid to a true safety and find a role.
The pick: Josh Proctor
Thought to be an option last year, Proctor became a regular within the Ohio State defense as the year went on, and it all built up to his bone-rattling hit of Wisconsin quarterback Jack Coan on the final play of the Big Ten championship game.
Those kind of highlights could become a normal occurrence for Proctor, who draws praise from coaches and players.
“He’s one of the most talented individuals you’ll ever come across in my opinion, in a lot of people’s opinion,” Fuller said of Proctor. “Just how big he is, how long he is but the speed and agility that comes with it and his competitive nature is off-the-charts.
“Really can’t say enough about him and this year especially, he’s really focused a lot more on the playbook and I know that’s gonna keep going in an upper trend so yeah, Josh Proctor, I expect big things and I know he expects big things out of himself too. So I’m really excited for him.”
If Proctor continues to grind and improve, his untapped potential could be unleashed. And if that happens, the Ohio State defense will be able to replace Fuller without fear of a drop off from the safety spot.