As a sophomore, Noah Brown entered 2015 trying to make a statement. In 2016, the same mindset holds true, but for a different reason.
Brown was staring down a starting role in Ohio State’s 2015 season opener at Virginia Tech with then-fifth year senior wide receiver Corey Smith, then-junior H-back Dontre Wilson and former Buckeye Jalin Marshall sidelined with a suspension. But just five days before the game in Blacksburg, Virginia, Brown suffered a season-ending leg injury. He broke his tibia and fibula and was granted a medical redshirt.
After winning a national championship in his true freshman season, Brown watched arguably the greatest Buckeye team in recent memory squander away a shot at a second ring. There was nothing Brown could do about it other than look on from the sidelines with a cast around his leg and crutches under his shoulders.
“Every game, really, that I couldn’t be out there hurt a lot,” Brown said at OSU’s media day on Sunday. “I was looking forward to a big year and going down it really hurt.”
As a young receiver, Brown quickly learned the winning ways of OSU in a unit that performed its best on the brightest stage on the way to a national championship. In his freshman year, Brown was molded by now-NFL wide receivers Devin Smith and Evan Spencer who set a standard for the room.
The 2015 team didn’t live up to that standard and ultimately fell short of the dream of another title. Brown knew that he had a great opportunity in 2016 to heavily impact the team, but his health was the No. 1 priority.
On the first day of 2016 fall camp on Aug. 7, coach Urban Meyer welcomed back players who ended the season on the injury report. One of those was Brown, who redshirt junior quarterback J.T. Barrett is glad to have back on the outside. Barrett said that Brown is the receiver he has the most confidence in.
“If there’s a guy on top of Noah, I can put the ball anywhere around Noah and he’s going to get it,” Barrett said. “The ball’s in the air, it’s his.”
For someone who has yet to see much time with the first-string offense in his OSU career, Brown is carrying lofty expectations. The 6-foot-2 outside threat from Flanders, New Jersey, is coming off of two surgeries—one after the day he broke his leg and the other before last year’s Michigan game—yet Meyer announced him, along with sixth-year senior Corey Smith, as a starter at receiver at Big Ten Media Days in July.
Brown said that, structurally, he is 100 percent, but he has yet to get back into football shape. Brown is practicing in full capacity and running with the first-team at the moment, headlining a young core of receivers.
“We got a young room, but we learned a lot from those guys that left,” Brown said. “We still carry on those same things and our goal is to be better than those people who left.”
To be better than the group of receivers that departed the program following the 2015 season means replacing 145 receptions, 1,805 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns. Junior H-back Curtis Samuel, Wilson, Smith and Brown will likely see the most touches of the returning players; however Brown mentioned redshirt sophomore Terry McLaurin and true freshman Austin Mack as two receivers who have stood out among the rest.
But make no mistake about it, Brown wants people to get to know him and make his presence felt on the gridiron. Despite not being at the point where he was at this time last year, which Meyer agreed with, Brown is fine tuning his route running and ability to be trusted by Barrett in crucial moments.
“As a receiver I feel like I’m an all-around receiver,” Brown said. “I’m not the fastest guy but at the same time I can run down the field and be a vertical threat,” Brown said. “I’m not setting any limits for myself this year.”