Baron Browning just might be the perfect replacement for Raekwon McMillan.
On Wednesday, Browning and his fellow early enrollees from the 2017 Ohio State football recruiting class addressed the media at the Woody Hayes Athletic Complex. A native of Texas, Browning fielded questions about Whataburger and the new pipeline of players from the state bolting to Ohio and other places, but one of the most intriguing queries was about playing cornerback at times.
An athletic freak, the incoming freshman has been known to have crazy versatility. Listed at 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds by the Buckeyes, he is only about 10 pounds lighter than outgoing Raekwon McMillan, but the fact he is trusted to take on the responsibility of a wide receiver speaks volumes about his ability.
“Usually I only did it, though, when there’s a receiver they needed me to take out (of) the equation,” Browning said on Wednesday. “As far as what that says to me, I just say that for my size I’m very versatile. Just because I weigh as much as I do, that doesn’t limit me I guess.”
McMillan is not necessarily known for his coverage ability, and it showed at times last season. Browning brings in the potential to cover passes effectively, but only time will tell if Urban Meyer and his coaching staff decide to use his apparent coverage ability in game.
A linebacker who isn’t limited by his size is a scary proposition for opposing teams, and Browning fits the bill of a dominant force on the inside of the defense. That is, if he ends up playing in the middle, since new linebackers coach Bill Davis has apparently been teaching the linebackers how to play all over the unit.
Browning himself doesn’t know where he’s playing yet.
“I really can’t tell you,” he said. “I know, just talking to coach Davis, he plans on teaching us all three linebacker positions, so it’s his call.”
Browning, like most of the incoming freshman, is doing his best to adjust to the new level of competition. He spoke about how, initially, he thought the warm-up to one of OSU’s early drills was the actual workout.
“Once I found out that was a warmup, I knew I couldn’t get my hopes up,” he said. “I just had to try to make it through. Ice tub became my best friend after that.”
Even though he’s been tested so far, Browning has an apparent solid relationship with OSU coach Urban Meyer. Browning shared a story about when he pulled a prank on Meyer, and called to tell him he was deciding on Alabama instead of the Buckeyes.
Meyer did not react well.
“I threw my phone against the damn wall,” he said.
However, after the smoke had cleared and Meyer discovered he would still be getting the top-ranked outside linebacker in 2017, he devised his own plan to get back at Browning, even recruiting the help of his mother. Meyer told Browning over the phone he would be taking the job as the Los Angeles Rams new head coach.
This, of course, was a lie, but Browning took it to heart before Meyer came forward with the truth.
“He got me back,” Browning said. “I see how he felt. I was really more so mad because my mom was in on it too. They planned it together. I guess I had that coming.”
In the upcoming season, Browning’s play will be a testament to just how good the five-star recruit can be. As for now, he will continue to try and develop as a player, and live up to the precedent set by so many historically stellar linebackers who have come through Columbus.
After all, he did say the reason players like him travel such a long way for college is to grow.
“I would say probably the reason everyone is leaving Texas is because everybody wanna be great, so they’re going to where they feel like they can grow the most.”