Jordan Hancock “Taking It Day By Day,” Continuing to Improve As He Climbs Toward First Significant Playing Time in Ohio State’s Secondary

By Dan Hope on May 29, 2022 at 8:35 am
Jordan Hancock

While he didn’t play much as a true freshman last year, Jordan Hancock looks poised to play a bigger role in Ohio State’s secondary this year.

In his first season with the Buckeyes in 2021, Hancock played only 31 defensive snaps, which came over the course of three consecutive blowout wins over Akron, Rutgers and Maryland. Otherwise, Hancock played only on special teams as Denzel Burke, Cameron Brown, Sevyn Banks, Ryan Watts, Lejond Cavazos and Demario McCall played most of the snaps at cornerback.

Even though he arrived at Ohio State as the No. 5 cornerback and No. 73 overall prospect in the 2021 class, Hancock didn’t mind having to wait his turn. Since he didn’t enroll at Ohio State until last summer, he knew he would need some time to develop before he’d be ready to play a major role.

Now that he’s gone through a full fall and a full spring with the Buckeyes, Hancock believes he is prepared to be a factor in Ohio State’s defense as a sophomore.

“I felt like I had good growing pains. I feel like I needed to feel things out. Because I came in the summer, so my body wasn't ready,” Hancock said in April. “But I feel like my body has taken a big jump. I feel like physically, I'm ready, and stuff like that. And playing special teams and getting my feet wet and just getting used to the speed of the game, I feel like that was a good change.”

Although Hancock was buried on the cornerback depth chart as a freshman, it became clear by the end of the year the Buckeyes don’t expect him to be a benchwarmer for long. If they did, they wouldn’t have played him on special teams in all of the season’s final three games, burning a year of eligibility rather than preserving his redshirt.

That became more clear this spring, when Hancock was the cornerback who took first-team reps opposite Burke at times when Brown was only a limited participant in practice. Banks, Watts, Cavazos and McCall are all now gone from Ohio State, leaving the depth chart behind Burke and Brown wide open. Hancock appears positioned to be the next man up.

Hancock looked ready for more playing time in Ohio State’s spring game, where he was among the standouts of the day with two pass breakups and a tackle for loss. He made big plays on back-to-back snaps on one sequence late in the second quarter when he broke up a C.J. Stroud pass intended for Marvin Harrison Jr. and then blew up a screen pass to Miyan Williams for a 4-yard loss one play later.

Hancock has received plenty of praise from his Ohio State coaches and teammates since late last season, with Ryan Day describing him and fellow second-year cornerback Jakailin Johnson as two of the Buckeyes’ most improved players this offseason.

“He’s a young guy, but he’s showing a lot of signs that he’s playing really good ball,” Ohio State safety Ronnie Hickman said in December. “He makes a lot of plays on the ball. I really like his footwork on the line as well. And he brings a lot of energy.”

Hancock didn’t have the advantage of enrolling early and going through spring practices in 2021 like Burke did, which limited his chances of making a rapid rise up the depth chart like Burke did. But Hancock feels like he was well-prepared for the collegiate level by facing some of the top high school competition in the country at North Gwinnett High School, which plays in the highest classification in Georgia.

“I had to follow like the No. 1 receiver every game and we didn't really run any safety over the top,” Hancock said. “So they kind of they kind of just threw me in the fire, and I feel like I'm used to that now.”

Going up against Ohio State’s wide receivers every day in practice has also helped steel him for the tests he’ll face when he starts playing regularly in games.

“It’s great going against the best players. And also the offensive coordinator, how they scheme stuff up,” Hancock said. “In high school, people didn't give you wiggle at the line. But in college, they kind of have the counter to your counter, basically. And I just had to go through that.”

Assuming he is in the cornerback rotation this fall, Hancock believes he can be a difference-maker on the back end of the Buckeyes’ defense. He expects to make interceptions and pass breakups in coverage and be an impactful tackler.

“I feel like I can change the game,” Hancock said.

How much playing time he will see if he is Ohio State’s No. 3 cornerback this fall remains uncertain. New Ohio State cornerbacks coach Tim Walton will have to decide whether he wants to rotate frequently at the position or leave Burke and Brown on the field as much as possible.

That said, Hancock says he isn’t focusing right now on how much playing time he’ll get this year. Instead, he’s just trying to improve every day, which is exactly the mentality new defensive coordinator Jim Knowles wants his players to have.

“Not focusing on my end goal, kind of just taking it day by day,” Hancock said when asked he is approaching this offseason differently from his freshman season. “How can I win the moment? That's what we’ve talked about here. Winning the moment. I kind of just took that and ran with it, just winning the moment every day, every rep.

“I don't want to ever get complacent and get satisfied. I feel like I can always do more. If I have a good day, let's see what I can do better and stuff like that. And build off of that.”

Now a full year into his development at Ohio State, Hancock believes he is “perfectly” on track to get to where he ultimately wants to be as a Buckeye. He says he’s already making far less mistakes in practice now than he was as a freshman last fall.

“Last year, I would get a pick in practice and then I would mess up the call the next play,” Hancock said. “I've really took a big jump in that aspect of the game.”

“I don't want to ever get complacent and get satisfied. I feel like I can always do more.”– Jordan Hancock on improving every day

Hancock says he is stronger and his technique is more polished than it was a year ago, allowing him to disrupt receivers at the line of scrimmage and break up more passes in practice. Hancock credits Mickey Marotti and the rest of Ohio State’s strength and conditioning staff with building him up physically, and he thinks all the cornerbacks have gotten better under the tutelage of Walton this offseason.

Of course, Hancock knows the real test of his development will come when he’s on the field for actual games this fall. So while he’s confident in himself, he doesn’t want to make any bold proclamations yet about how much he’ll play or how many plays he’ll make this season.

“We'll see. We'll see. We'll see. Hopefully, hopefully,” Hancock said when asked if he thinks he will make a big jump this season. “We're gonna see on Saturdays how it goes. But right now, I'm just taking it day by day.”

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