Jordan Hancock

Jordan Hancock Ready For More At ‘Most Fun Position’ In Football

Like a large handful of his teammates after last season, Ohio State junior defensive back Jordan Hancock had a decision to make.

Should he declare early for the NFL Draft, or come back for a senior season that could erase a lot of pain from the previous three seasons.

Like most of those teammates, Hancock returned to the Buckeyes. And like those teammates, it was each other that brought him back.

“Just the brotherhood, you know?” Hancock said this spring. “Everyone was coming back, so I’m like, ‘Damn, what would I look like just going and leaving?’ I just want to leave out of here with a national championship. We just left so much behind. I feel like our class came in as one of the best classes to ever come to Ohio State and we need to leave out of here with something, so that’s why I came back.”

The reason Hancock had an NFL decision to make is because he turned into one of the Buckeyes’ most consistent defenders last year. For the first eight games of the season, he shared the nickel position with sophomore Sonny Styles. Styles played mostly on the running downs, while Hancock came in on the passing downs.

The platoon was one of the many things that worked for the Ohio State defense last year, as they were always at the top of the leaderboard in every pass defense category.

Hancock spent his first two years at cornerback for the Buckeyes, but last year’s experience at nickel with Styles opened his eyes.

“Yeah, definitely made me a better nickel. Just learning from Sonny, he put me on with a lot of game and stuff like that,” Hancock said. “I really had to flip my mindset from just playing corner and then just playing nickel, but now I just want to be the best nickel in the country. So that’s kind of my mindset right now.”

The platoon with Styles ended in the Wisconsin game last season, however. Starting strong safety Lathan Ransom went down with a foot injury and was lost for the rest of the season. That meant Styles went to strong safety for the last five games of the year, leaving Hancock to play on both the run downs and pass downs.

The size difference between the two — with Styles standing 6-foot-4 and weighing 230-plus pounds, and Hancock at 6-foot-1 and 190-odd pounds — is why Styles was the nickel against the run. The Buckeyes lost that size advantage when Ransom went down, but Hancock was up for the challenge.

“I’ve never really had to get used to it,” he said. “Most people at corner they can’t go play inside, but I just like hitting. There’s just something about it. It was just a natural transition.”

In defensive coordinator Jim Knowles’ scheme, the nickel is part of the base defense. Which means that Jordan Hancock has to be involved in the run fits, and also be prepared to guard the quickest receivers on the opposing team.

Even though he was asked to do more and more down the stretch, this was the time when he responded the most.

“Yeah, it was crazy. I think that whole October, just from October to November, I had a really crazy stretch,” he said. “I feel like every game in October, November, that’s when I excelled at the position.”

Hancock posted 41 tackles last season, which he will need to do again this season. He also has his eyes set on a particular personal goal as well.

“I want to get better at getting more interceptions,” he said. “I feel I’m capable of getting five-plus interceptions this year. I got my hands on a couple of balls last year, so just get more interceptions.”

Being on the field as much as he’ll be this year will certainly afford him the opportunity to improve upon his one interception from last year. But Jordan Hancock knows that it’s not just going to be eyeballing quarterbacks and defenders receivers. There is going to be some hell to pay at the line of scrimmage as well.

“That’s why I feel like it’s the most fun position on the field,” he said. “So I had to gain a little bit more weight in this offseason to bring more power to it because I’ve got to take on offensive guards and tight ends every time. So yeah, I had to gain some weight and I’m feel like I’ve gotten a lot stronger.”

It’s a tough ask for a cornerback to become so much to so many, but it was also something that he was recruited to do. The Ohio State coaches talked to him about playing nickel in recruiting, but it never fully happened until last year with cornerbacks coach Tim Walton.

And Hancock isn’t sure it could have happened without him.

“Oh, yeah, if I didn’t have Coach Walt, I don’t know if I could make that position switch,” he said. “There’s just so many cerebral things you have to know at the position. Coach Walt, he’s got an NFL background and he knows every single unit. So I had to learn the D-line, linebackers — because sometimes I do the same thing that Steele Chambers was doing last year in the same position. So if I didn’t have Coach Walt, I don’t know how I would have transitioned.”

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