Josh Winslow/BSB

All Ohio State Safeties Are Working Together To Replace Hooker's Production Last Season

Rather than just one guy trying to compensate for the departure of Malik Hooker, a number of safeties are working to shore up the back end of the Buckeye defense.

It would be safe to say Malik Hooker made a substantial impact in his one year as a starting safety for Ohio State last season. 

His seven interceptions were one shy of tying Rasul Douglas of West Virginia and Tarvarus McFadden of Florida State for the most in the country in 2016. He, along with Western Michigan’s Darius Phillips, led the nation, however, with three pick-sixes. As if that wasn’t impressive enough, Hooker made 74 tackles last year, good for third among Buckeye defenders behind Raekwon McMillan’s 102 stops and Jerome Baker’s 83, both of whom are linebackers. 

Now that Hooker is pursuing a career in the NFL, the Buckeyes have a glaring hole to fill at the back end of its defense. Instead of trying to have one player fill said hole, a number of guys are doing so this spring. 

“It’s a big void, but we’re all taking it on our shoulders,” said OSU safety Jordan Fuller after the team’s seventh spring practice on March 30. “There’s a standard here at Ohio State and we’re showed to it.

“We’ve all got to fill the void together. We’re all competing hard, going against the offense and just pushing each other.”

Joining Fuller in the safeties room are Elijaah Goins, Isaiah Pryor, Erick Smith, Damon Webb and Jahsen Wint. Webb will be a senior in the fall and started alongside Hooker last year at the other safety spot. Though he was a first-stringer a season ago, Webb doesn’t consider himself a starter this spring.   

“Right now, we don’t have any starters, even me, so it’s great competition,” Webb said. “We’re all just trying to get better each and every day.”  

Fuller, who will be a sophomore in the fall, echoed Webb’s assessment.   

“We’re all competing,” he said. “There’s no job solidified right now.”

Fuller noted that having everyone vying for the starting safety spots lends to positive results.    

“I think it’s great because it’s keeping everybody on their toes and everybody is competing hard,” he said. “Maybe if there’s a true starter, he would be a little more chill and stuff like that. But it’s not like that at all.”

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