Jordan Fuller Returns to Ohio State Poised to Improve Upon Junior Campaign

By Chris Lauderback on January 11, 2019 at 10:10 am
Jordan Fuller recorded his lone interception in 2018 against Michigan.

Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

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In today's 24-hour news cycle, the flurry of news surrounding Ryan Day's coaching staff changes, the farewell to Urban Meyer and the ongoing drama that is the 2019 quarterback situation pretty much swallowed up safety Jordan Fuller's decision to return to Ohio State for his senior season. 

The who's in, who's out tsunami came with the obvious but still seismic revelation that Dwayne Haskins will go pro, the celebration of K.J. Hill's return to the receiving corps and the somewhat surprising decision from Michael Jordan to head to the NFL.

With those nuggets swirling, Fuller's announcement was a bit of an afterthought for many after a 2018 season that wasn't up to his own standards and by extension, didn't always meet the expectations of a rabid fan base. 

As is the often the case, the majority of onlookers focused on what Fuller wasn't in 2018 versus what he was. 

It's fair to argue his effectiveness regressed last fall as a junior compared to his sturdy sophomore campaign but it's also worth examining the external variables that could've contributed to a harsher grade via the eye test. 

As a true sophomore in 2017, Fuller led the Buckeyes in solo tackles and just missed leading in total tackles despite missing one full game and parts of two others due to injury. He accomplished those numbers while playing alongside a serviceable (and underappreciated as it turns out) Damon Webb at safety and an elite Denzel Ward at corner as the pass defense held opponents to just 6.1 yards per attempt, good for 10th nationally, while the rushing defense held opponents to 2.9 yards per attempt, good for fourth in the land. 

In 2018 as a junior, Fuller was forced to see action at both safety spots as Alex Grinch and company failed to find a serviceable sidekick until Brendon White's emergence was forced on the staff during the ninth game of the season following Fuller's ejection resulting from a targeting call. 

Jordan Fuller
Fuller recorded eight solo stops in the Rose Bowl. (Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)

With the the hole at the safety spot opposite Fuller lasting two months, schematic curiosities throughout the season and the linebackers' collective struggles, maybe his performance slip shouldn't have been so surprising.  

Despite those realities, Fuller still managed to make some history as he became just the second safety since 2001 to lead Ohio State in tackles, tying Malik Harrison with 81, while picking up second-team All-B1G honors (media). 

Fuller's run at the record books came as he turned in some solid outings down the stretch including eight stops and an interception versus Michigan, nine tackles against Northwestern in the B1G championship and another nine against Washington in the Rose Bowl, including eight solos.

Heading into 2019, Fuller is all but assured of being a two-time team captain and he's already a two-time Academic All-American. The next step is to improve in the playmaking department while maintaining his status as a tackling machine in hopes of helping the Buckeyes and enhancing his NFL Draft stock. 

Those goals could prove much easier to achieve now that Fuller has a legit full-season partner in White co-anchoring the back line and what should be a rejuvenated defense following Day's dismantling of Urban Meyer's defensive staff, save the venerable Larry Johnson. 

Count me among those as seeing Jordan's projected performance glass as half-Fuller.

I'll show myself out. 

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