In almost every aspect of the game, the Buckeyes' defense improved tremendously. You can look at the numbers and you can find the adjustments on film, but one underrated characteristic of Ohio State's defense last week – something that was missing in its season-opening performance – was the presence of veteran safety Jordan Fuller.
Without Fuller against the Beavers, the Buckeyes surrendered big plays, missed tackles in the secondary and allowed almost 400 yards of offense. With Fuller against the Scarlet Knights, the longest play Ohio State surrendered went for 15 yards, open-field tackles in the secondary were checked off the list and Rutgers managed just 134 yards of total offense.
|OPPONENT||FIRST DOWNS||PASS COMPLETIONS||PASS YARDS||RUSH YARDS||YPC||TOTAL YARDS|
Needless to say, Fuller's coaches and teammates are glad to have what they call an "insurance policy" back.
"He's a very good athlete, No. 1 and has good anticipation, about vision," Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano said earlier this week. "You know, Jordan would be good at whatever he did. He came here as a corner. He could play corner. He's got that kind of coverage skills. He could play receiver and he was a quarterback in high school. He has a real good spatial awareness and he's a good tackler."
In his first appearance this season, Fuller was virtually everywhere. While making three tackles, No. 4 was back in coverage, sealed off would-be rushing lanes and gave Schiano a breath of relief from a week earlier.
After the win, Fuller said he felt 100 percent and that he was fully healthy.
"It was really just everything. I was able to practice and I felt better," Fuller said. "I notice a difference just because I'm out there, so it's a different perspective. But I think there's a calmness and more experience (when he's on the field)."
Cornerback Jeffrey Okudah agrees. When talking with reporters Tuesday evening at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, Okudah said he felt more at peace with Fuller behind him.
"(Fuller) definitely gives you confidence because you have that experience back there," Okudah said. "He's a captain and someone who's played in a lot of big games. Just having him back there, you kind of have a sense of confidence. We definitely know he's there."
Thankfully for the Buckeyes, heading into this Saturday's primetime matchup with TCU at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, Fuller will once again line up as the starting free safety.
"It's a big difference," Schiano said. "He's such a stabilizing force. Our medical staff did a great job of bringing him back at the right speed."