After Leading the Team in Solo Tackles in 2017, Ohio State Needs Even More from Jordan Fuller Next Season

By Chris Lauderback on January 5, 2018 at 10:10 am
Jordan Fuller tallied 70 tackles in 2017, good for second place among OSU defenders behind linebacker Jerome Baker.

One of the few question marks on Ohio State's defense entering the 2017 season centered around who would replace departed superstar Malik Hooker alongside the incumbent Damon Webb at the back end of the Buckeye defense. 

Senior Erick Smith got some run early as it seemed only injury kept the big hitter from seeing more playing time in the past but eventually true sophomore Jordan Fuller put the starting spot on lockdown and never looked back. 

Fuller's emergence came following a true freshman season in which he saw just 71 defensive snaps resulting in 11 tackles after arriving at Ohio State via New Jersey as a 4-star athlete and the state's Gatorade Player of the Year. 

Fuller set the tone for his season in the opener against Indiana intercepting a pass and posting five solo stops. 

Sharing snaps with Smith over the following three games he still managed to log 12 more tackles before taking over as the no-doubt starter against Rutgers and responding with six stops. 

Two weeks later in Lincoln, Fuller put on a show with five more solo tackles (six total) and excellent coverage on Nebraska's slot guys including the electric J.D. Spielman, as our own Kyle Jones discussed in his postgame Film Study. 

Fuller would post a career-high nine stops his next time out in Ohio State's thrilling comeback win over Penn State but despite establishing a new career-high with 10 tackles seven days later against Iowa, he was far from his best in pass coverage as the Hawkeyes exploited numerous Buckeye breakdowns. 

A leg injury slowed Fuller over the over the following two games including a DNP against Illinois allowing teammate Jerome Baker close the gap on Fuller's lead in total tackles.  

J. BAKER 42 30 72
J. FULLER 57 13 70
D. WEBB 44 17 61
T. BORLAND 35 23 58
C. WORLEY 35 21 56

Still probably not 100%, Fuller returned for Ohio State's trip to Ann Arbor and intercepted a John O'Korn throw with the Buckeyes nursing a 24-20 lead with under three minutes left in regulation. 

Heading into the Cotton Bowl, Fuller trailed Baker in total tackles by seven (67-60) and did just about all he could in Dallas as he tallied 10 stops to Baker's five in the 24-7 decision over the Trojans. 

Though he finished two behind Baker for the team lead in total tackles (72-70), Fuller comfortably led the team with 57 solo stops, 13 clear of Webb and 15 ahead of Baker. 

Fuller's performance earned him a third-team selection by the league's coaches and an honorable mention nod from the media. 

For perspective, had Fuller not been injured he very well could have become just the fifth safety in the last 25 years to lead Ohio State in tackles joining Mike Doss (twice), C.J. Barnett and Damon Moore. 

2017 J. FULLER 13 70 2 57 1 2 2 SO COACHES 3, MEDIA HM
2016 M. HOOKER 13 74 3 43 3 7 4 SO COACHES 1, MEDIA 1
2015 T. POWELL 13 71 3 41 4 3 3 JR COACHES HM, MEDIA HM
2014 V. BELL 15 92 2 57 2 6 6 SO COACHES -, MEDIA HM
2013 C.J. BARNETT 13 84 2 56 2 4 5 SR COACHES HM, MEDIA HM
2012 C. BRYANT 12 70 2 36 3 1 12 JR COACHES 2, MEDIA HM

With a full season under his belt, the challenge for Fuller is to not only take his game to the next level but elevate the play of his teammates through leadership especially whoever joins him to anchor the back line next fall with Webb out of eligibility. 

The favorite to replace Webb should be an early enrollee from the 2017 class, Isaiah Pryor, though he should at least be pushed by incoming freshman Josh Proctor and maybe redshirt sophomore Jahsen Wint. 

A Lawrenceville, Georgia product who arrived in Columbus by way of IMG Academy in Florida as the 7th-best safety prospect according to both Scout and 24/7 Sports, Pryor has good size at 6-foot-2, 195 pounds and another offseason under Mickey Marotti's watchful eye should only improve his physique. 

Following a similar track as Fuller in year one, Pryor saw action in 12 games last fall tallying nine tackles, a sack and a pass break up. 

Assuming Pryor fills Webb's void, he'll be the greenest member of a retooled secondary joined by names like Jeffrey Okudah, Damon Arnette and probably Kendall Sheffield, again meaning the staff will count on Fuller to not only continue being a tackling machine but helping Pryor with the finer points of preparation and execution. 

Go ahead and mark me down as fully expecting Fuller to accomplish both. 

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