Ohio State wideout Corey “Philly” Brown has given up trying to get people to revert to referring to him by his given name. He’ll settle for making a new name for himself on the football field.
Brown must be doing something right, especially given Urban Meyer referred to the junior as one of the team’s best playmakers when the head coach met with the media Monday for the first time since the Buckeyes’ 31-16 win over Central Florida.
Admittedly not fond of his nickname – which was given to Brown by former head coach Jim Tressel to distinguish him from the defensive back with the same name – Brown doesn’t mind also being known as the guy who’s going to make consistent plays for the Buckeyes offense this season.
“I have had to take a long look in the mirror,” Brown said. “Obviously my first two seasons here weren’t very good. So I took a long look in the mirror and said, ‘If this is what I want to do for the rest of my life I have to get going.’ It is about growing up, being a leader and putting in the work to be a good receiver.”
It hasn’t been a month since the biggest question Ohio State faced was in regards to which players could be counted on to make plays in the passing game. Already with 13 receptions through two games – one short of his team-leading reception total from a year ago – Brown has all but made that apprehension a moot point.
In the Buckeyes’ (2-0) most recent win over the Knights, Brown grabbed six passes for 48 yards. He also had two carries for 33 yards, one of which he took on a reverse, shook off a defender in the backfield and rushed 19 yards to move Ohio State deep into UCF’s red zone.
“Philly Brown was the offensive player of the game,” said Meyer, who admitted during fall camp that he was unsure if Brown was up to the task of being someone the team counted on. “(He) graded out 95 percent, which is extremely high for a wide receiver, and he's right now our best playmaker on offense.”
Brown certainly hasn’t mastered all the intricacies of being a receiver, but he has done enough to earn the right to touch the ball. How he gets the ball could come in more various ways when the Buckeyes host California on Saturday, specifically because the team is facing unexpected uncertainty at the running back position.
Ohio State has sustained the absence of Jordan Hall since the beginning of fall camp, who is still recovering from offseason foot surgery after stepping on a piece of glass this summer. The Buckeyes, however, lost another running back against the Knights when starter Carlos Hyde suffered an MCL sprain and will miss Saturday’s game against the Golden Bears.
Assuming Hall won’t return to the lineup this week – which is still up in the air despite the senior’s ability to run early in the week – the Buckeyes must turn to freshman running back Bri’onte Dunn and sophomore Rod Smith to carry the load.
Meyer has full confidence that both will be prepared to go against the Golden Bears, but the Buckeyes may bridge the gap by being more creative offensively. That could mean finding different ways to get Brown the ball in the running game.
“If Coach Meyer wants to use me at running back, I am fine with it,” said Brown, who played running back in high school and hoped that’s where he’d stay in college. “It was my first time, I think, carrying the ball in a while (against UCF). It takes me back to high school days. It was fun.”
Brown won’t play running back, per se. However, running back coach Stan Drayton acknowledged the team would get creative with formations that could include Brown in the backfield.
Ohio State has shown looks multiple times this season where Brown shifted from out wide into the back field before becoming quarterback Braxton Miller’s pitch man on option plays.
"Formationally, we try to do things creatively to create mismatches,” Drayton said. “Sometimes you just try to gather info about the defense. It's not always about (Brown) getting the ball, but you motion a guy like that into the backfield and the defense makes adjustments that we can gather information for upcoming plays or whatever it may be.
“The fact that he’s being very productive for us allows us to do more things creatively, formationally, to be able to help us out.”
The coaching staff was banking on Hall to be the Buckeyes biggest playmaker aside from Miller. Hyde was emerging as another option for Ohio State before suffering the injury that could keep him out for the next few weeks.
Brown, however, has proven he’s up to the task to help the team shoulder the load without some of the team’s top playmakers at running back.
“I am playing a lot of different positions right now and I am still trying to learn and step in until Jordan gets back," Brown said. "I always wanted to run the ball and I joke about it a lot in the locker room with the running backs telling them I can play running back. For me to get the carry the ball, that would be pretty cool.”
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