Josh Proctor recorded a career-high four tackles against Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl, but the plays the then-sophomore didn’t make stuck with him more.
Ohio State turned to a two-high safety look against Clemson in 2019, after playing with a single-high safety for most of the season, and Proctor was largely tasked with assuming the second safety role. Focusing on his mistakes in order to improve, the junior safety said he looks to use the motivation from the conclusion of his second season at Ohio State to help him fill the single-high safety position in 2020.
“The plays that I messed up on, I think it motivated me, pushed me a little bit to prepare, watch film more and notice plays before they come,” Proctor said Oct. 14 in a Zoom call.
Proctor’s 2019 campaign was bookended by very different performances. He began the season playing a backup role and collecting the first interception of his career, but ended it playing the most snaps of his season in a loss.
The Oklahoma native said he watched the Fiesta Bowl film “quite a bit,” and said that the mistakes he made pushed him to be a better player — a task which safeties and special teams coordinator Matt Barnes said can be accomplished through improved reliability.
“He’s got some unbelievable talent and ability and potential, and I’ve seen him make some outstanding plays,” Barnes said Oct. 14 in a Zoom call. “I think the big thing for Josh is showing up every day, being right on all the little things, all the details and consistently getting it right — not just one day and then take a step back the next.”
Barnes said that Proctor will be counted on to fill the void left by current Los Angeles Rams safety Jordan Fuller.
Proctor, along with redshirt sophomore safety Marcus Hooker, will be tasked with playing the position dominated by Fuller the past three seasons.
Describing Hooker as a “true centerfielder” with “freakish ball skills,” Barnes said Proctor brings a different skill set that includes man-to-man coverage and an ability to play closer to the box.
“They both can do both and they both have done both at a high level, but in my opinion, that’s the difference between the two,” Barnes said.
Comparing their differing play styles, Hooker said that despite the limited overlap in their styles, they work together in order to keep a sense of consistency in the secondary.
“[Proctor] has many things I don’t have and Josh is a great ballplayer — a tremendous ballplayer, as a matter of fact,” Hooker said. “We both work together on the backend so we kinda keep ourselves together.”
Although the pressure of a competition for the starting safety spot weighs over their heads, Hooker said that he and Proctor don’t worry about the rotation at the spot and are close friends off the field.
Calling Hooker one of his closest friends on the team, Proctor said that they’ve built a strong relationship despite the positional rivalry.
“We don’t really take it to the field, on the field we’re the same way and our relationship doesn’t change,” Proctor said. “We really just focus on each other getting better and pushing each other.”
Proctor said his biggest progression from last season to now has been his ability to communicate on the field. Acknowledging Fuller’s dedication to film and the mental aspects of the game, Proctor said he is looking to apply that to his own preparation and game.
“I think for me it’s like being that quarterback — like he was — back there,” Proctor said. “Communicating with the corners and getting the defense lined up and in the right place at all times.”
Proctor said that a lack of focus on some of the minute details is what plagued him a year ago, but by focusing on consistency and improvement, he said that he is hoping to break through during 2020.
“I want to prove that I’m here and my name will be a household name here,” Proctor said.