2023 Ohio State spring football Jordan Hancock

Difficult 2022 Season Made Jordan Hancock A Better Cornerback

Ohio State junior cornerback Jordan Hancock has played in just 11 games in his Buckeye career, and that’s not because he redshirted as a true freshman. Injuries have derailed Hancock in each of his first two years at Ohio State, but he is now healthy and on track to be the player that the Buckeyes were hoping they could rely on last season.

A hamstring injury last season kept him out of Ohio State’s first six games. He was limited to action in five of OSU’s last seven games last year, seeing time on defense in just four of those contests.

A healthy and productive offseason with strength coach Mickey Marotti and plenty of work with cornerbacks coach Tim Walton has not only gotten Hancock to where he used to be, but well beyond it.

“Oh yeah, huge difference [from last year],” Hancock said. “I can tell. My explosiveness, my IQ, just being in with Coach Mick and Coach Walt, they upped my game.”

Last year was a frustrating experience for Hancock because there was “only so much I could do.” Even when he returned from injury last year, he was never 100%. He was always limited in terms of speed and overall burst. He knew the assignment, but he was missing his explosion.

“That’s really it and people don’t realize that I didn’t have camp. I didn’t practice eight weeks,” he said. “I just got thrown in the fire. But I’m thankful to be thrown in that fire because I learned from those games and it’s better off now.”

As a true sophomore, Jordan Hancock had to become the wily vet. The guy who had to make up for his temporary lack of athleticism with a better mental understanding of what an offense was trying to accomplish. He had to beat receivers to the spots where the balls were going.

That need for anticipation is going to be one of the things he carries forward with him this year.

“Putting that on top of my explosiveness now kind of works,” he said.

Ohio State went into the 2022 season planning for Hancock to be in the regular rotation at cornerback. That never materialized. And while it may have been seen as a wasted year in terms of on-field action, it was never a wasted year in terms of preparing for his next opportunity.

“The game has slowed down for him, so he can play faster,” Walton said. “He’s seeing it quicker. So he had a chance to go through the spring, and then the preparation throughout the summer. He’s able to process things really fast. See formations, see splits, and being able to diagnose plays really well. So being pretty good with his eyes.

“It’s understanding the defense. Knowing what the formations are dictating, and then being able to apply it pre snap. So now he’s able to beat guys to the spot — instead of just playing routes — because he kind of has a feel for what’s coming.”

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Being a year older and having a deeper knowledge of the defense, Jordan Hancock has also gotten some time in fall camp as the Buckeyes’ nickel. The position requires him to play over the opposing slot receiver, which can often be the team’s quickest player.

Hancock’s favorite part about getting some reps at nickel?

“I like hitting people,” he said last week. “You hit people more at nickel, so probably that.”

Hancock isn’t the only player who has gotten snaps at nickel in practice, but Walton likes what he brings to whichever situation they put him in.

“Smart. He understands,” Walton said of Hancock. “We’re trying to create positions where we can put guys in the best spot that can help us. So we’re just moving guys around and seeing. He’s a smart guy, he can handle a lot of football. He has a high IQ. He sees the game well. So we’re just moving guys around and just seeing different things that they can help you if we need it.”

The cross-training process has been a smooth one for Hancock.

“It translates pretty smoothly because corner, it can be harder to guard at the cornerback position, but playing nickel you can know where your leverage is and your help,” he explained. “So having that really helps me.”

The Ohio State depth chart should be solidifying following Saturday’s second scrimmage of fall camp. The coaches will know more than they know now, but they already have a pretty good idea of the way things are going.

That includes their encouraging thoughts on Hancock, despite having played cornerback in just seven games in his career, and seeing a little over 130 total snaps. In reality, that equates to just two full games’ worth of action.

So why are the coaches so confident?

“Because we go against pretty good guys in practice every day,” Walton said. “I mean, the dudes that we’re going against, 18, 2, 4, and all those guys, 10. You know, veteran guys that have played, so that’s where you get your evaluation from.”

Those four receivers that Walton mentioned — Marvin Harrison (No. 18), Emeka Egbuka (No. 2), Julian Fleming (No. 4), and Xavier Johnson (No. 10) could all be in the NFL next season. That’s eventually where Hancock wants to be. There is an urgency to his junior season, but it won’t bypass the need to do whatever it takes to help this team win.

“I’m just moving at my own pace, but it’s a different type of urgency for sure,” Hancock said. “Like, I know I can’t do or mess up on stuff like how I could my freshman year or anything like that. So, yeah, it’s a different type of urgency. Different type of pace and speed.”

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