Ohio State junior cornerback Jordan Hancock repped with the first team all spring long, lining up alongside classmate and soon-to-be three-year-starter Denzel Burke.
By all accounts, Hancock had a very good spring, and perhaps the main reason for that was simply because he was finally healthy.
Due to injuries, Hancock has played in just 11 games over his first two years as a Buckeye. And he’s only seen time on defense in seven of those games. Despite those struggles he has emerged as a leader for cornerbacks coach Tim Walton and defensive coordinator Jim Knowles.
Hancock missed the first six games last year with a hamstring injury, and then missed two of the Buckeyes’ final seven games — including the playoff game against Georgia.
It wasn’t an easy season for him, but he tried to make the most of it.
“Yeah, I feel like it was difficult, but it was a really eye-opening thing,” Hancock said this spring. “Because maybe I needed to learn on stuff. Like really learn how to take care of my body and stuff like that. So me being injured really made me learn to grow.”
The time off the field allowed Hancock to really focus on the defensive scheme, the ins and outs, and his role in it. But it also impacted his game speed and the quickness with which checks have to be made when things are live. Getting to play in a handful of games late last season helped get him back up to speed, as did the 15 practices this spring.
Jordan Hancock was supposed to play a significant role in last year’s defense, but the injuries never allowed that to happen. Now, however, he believes the work he’s put in with OSU strength coach Mickey Marotti and his position coach Tim Walton has gotten him back to the player that the coaching staff had such high hopes for a season ago.
“Last year I couldn’t explode out like I wanted to because of my hamstring,” Hancock said. “But now having a full offseason, getting with Coach Mick, Coach Walt teaching us a lot of stuff from the game. With my explosiveness I feel like I can change the game.”
Hancock is more prepared physically and mentally than he was a year ago. He was also pushed every day in practice by a talented group of Ohio State wide receivers. Which has also made him tougher.
“Sometimes, because they’re so good, you can’t even — your technique’s not gonna be flawless,” he explained. “Maybe you have to beat them by out-efforting them or finishing harder than them. They make us better each and every day.”
The Buckeyes also went out and brought in a transfer cornerback. Sophomore Davison Igbinosun was a Freshman All-American last year at Ole Miss.
Sometimes, bringing in a transfer can bother players at the position that was just upgraded. For Hancock, he just wants the Ohio State secondary to get back to being “BIA,” or the Best In America.
“I want to be the best in America. I want this whole unit to be the best In America,” he said. “That’s what we stand on. So bringing in Davison, he’s a great kid, he’s really good. So bringing him in really boosts all of us, and he pushes all of us. So I feel like that was a great change for us, bringing him in.”
With the addition of Igbinosun, and a cornerbacks room that was healthy all spring long, the possibilities are much loftier than they were a year ago when five different cornerbacks started at least one game.
Despite the struggles last year, and the transfer of Igbinosun this year, Hancock found himself running with the ones all spring long.
But the games aren’t played in March and April.
“It really doesn’t mean anything right now,” he said. “It’s just competing and cheering on the guys and just having fun with my boys out there. So I mean, depth chart, I don’t really want to harp on that or anything like that. I just want to compete. That’s all I want to do.”