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Buckeyes Would Have No Problem Doing the Safety Dance This Year
By Tony Gerdeman
The Buckeyes could be rotating three safeties this year.
Photo by Dan Harker

Ohio State famously split their cornerback reps last season between three very talented players and the results couldn't have been any more positive. It doesn't take much of a leap to then want to apply that same practice to the very back end of the Buckeye secondary and see how it works.

Of course, you have to have three safeties who are good enough to play, but it is beginning to look like Ohio State has that covered.

With Malik Hooker off to the NFL, the Buckeyes have been rotating sophomore Jordan Fuller and senior Erick Smith at the vacated strong safety position. They have also both been rotating in at Damon Webb's free safety position, and so far things are progressing towards all three players rotating during games in 2017.

"There’s no rule that if they all three play at a high level or somebody else does, that you can’t play more than two," defensive coordinator Greg Schiano said.

This proposed rotation wouldn't work exactly like the cornerback rotation a year ago because Damon Webb is pretty much only working at his free safety spot, but the larger goal of being fresh in November would still be easily attainable.

And even though Webb is a returning starter, that doesn't mean his job is safe. Everything is wide open.

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

Fuller spent last year as Webb's backup while Smith was the No. 2 behind Hooker. One of the two will eventually be stepping in for Hooker in the starting lineup, but together all three of them will be trying to produce the same impact the group had in 2016. And they're not looking to put Hooker's production out of their minds.

"No, we gotta keep it in our mind because it’s the standard at Ohio State," Fuller said. "You gotta keep it up. That’s why you come here though. We’re all trying to fill that void."

For Smith, this is his last go-round, and Schiano expects that to continue to drive the senior.

"I hope so," he said. "This is it. It’s not his fault, but he’s had some unfortunate injury history, but if it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen now."

So far, so good for Smith and Fuller, and for Webb as well. And so far, so good for the Buckeyes playing all three of them on a regular basis.

"I think Erick Smith and Jordan Fuller are playing great," cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs said this past week. "I think that there is no reason why those guys couldn’t rotate. You know, we do it in the defensive line and nobody ever asks a question about that, right? We keep rolling those guys in and guess what they do, they play fast and they sack quarterbacks. And so the more guys -- when you have a talented team, the more guys you can play, keep fresh, keep healthy, and get experience, the better you’re going to be defensively. So I would say there’s no reason to think those three kids can’t do the same thing in the back end."

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