Most Important Buckeyes: No. 6
By Tony Gerdeman
Last season, a number of Buckeyes made sacrifices for the good of the team. No one will ever forget what Zach Boren did, moving from fullback to middle linebacker, and shoring up a front seven that needed to find that proper cog.
Photo by Jim Davidson
The sacrifice that Corey "Philly" Brown made, however, has been somewhat overshadowed. Brown was moved to the slot in Urban Meyer's offense, attempting to utilize his versatility and athleticism.
It worked to the tune of 60 catches and 669 yards receiving, but it was still not an ideal situation for Brown and the Buckeyes. Now, Brown will move outside, but he will still possess the skills that made him a viable option in the slot. In fact, he can play any wide receiver position that receivers coach Zach Smith has for him.
"He's a versatile guy," Smith explained. "He can move to all four spots. He can play all of them, he knows all of them, and he would be really good at all of them. It's really need based, where do we need him the most? If we have three guys at all three spots that we feel like are what we need, now we have the freedom to move them wherever we want, whenever we want."
What Makes Him Important
As Smith said, Brown can do whatever the offense needs him to do. What they need him to do right now is provide another outside target for Braxton Miller. A second viable weapon outside the hashmarks will spread a defense out, opening up more holes for everyone on offense.
Brown will likely be the number one target for the offense again this year, and he's proven himself very reliable. He can move the chains, as he showed last year, but in the offseason he worked toward making more big plays.
"We worked on that in the off-season because I ran so much inside last year," Brown said. "And knowing we had Jalin Marshall and some of these young guys coming in that can play the inside, I can play more of the outside, so I worked on being able to go up and get it."
But it's not just his physical ability that makes him important, it's also his physical presence. Brown is one of the true leaders on this team, and the younger receivers all look to him for answers when they run into problems that they can't solve.
"I talk to him a lot and ask him questions that I need answered," said freshman Jalin Marshall. He's a great role model for all of us. He helps us get better and he answers any question from me."
What Can Be Expected Of Him
If Philly Brown was able to put up 60 receptions in a year where the Buckeyes weren't a very good passing team, then what are the possibilities for him now that the Ohio State passing game is supposed to be greatly improved?
Yes, Braxton Miller will have more options to throw to, but every quarterback has that one receiver that they rely on more than any other. That will very likely be Brown this season.
Even if Brown averaged the same five catches per game that he did last season, that could put him around 70 receptions this year. If Miller targets Brown with the same percentage of his throws as he did last season, then he's probably looking at closer to 80 catches.
Admittedly, those numbers might be a bit high given that Brown will be out wide, and Miller might be looking underneath like he did last season.
Picking a specific number for Brown in 2013 is difficult, but what can be expected is for him to be a more complete and explosive receiver, which is all his coaches have ever wanted.
What Would They Do Without Him
Devin Smith spent the offseason and the spring running more inside routes than he did last season, and he performed very well. Without Philly Brown in the lineup, he would be able to relieve some of the versatility that the Buckeyes would be missing, but then somebody would have to replace Smith's ability to blast past a cornerback on a nine route.
Evan Spencer is the third wide receiver right now and he's had the best offseason of any of the receivers. He will start more than a few games this season, and expect him to impact even more games than that.
But neither are exactly what the Buckeyes have with Brown. He can take a handoff on a jet sweep and not look out of place. Perhaps Corey Smith, the junior college transfer, could get a look. There's also young Jalin Marshall, who just happens to be Brown's roommate right now in camp.
Yes, there are more options than there's been in years, but not having Philly Brown out there would leave the offense looking for one of their leaders, and it would leave Braxton Miller looking for somebody to lean on.
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