If Baron Browning Doesn’t Reach Potential, Blame Bill Davis

Ohio State Football Buckeyes Baron Browning Linebacker

There aren’t many 6-foot-4 240-pound linebackers who run in the 4.5s, so if you can find one, you better make it count.

Ohio State signed one such linebacker in the 2017 recruiting class in Baron Browning, out of Fort Worth, Texas. Browning played in 12 games as a true freshman last season for the Buckeyes, picking up 14 tackles in mostly special teams duty.

Browning began his career at middle linebacker, but linebackers coach Bill Davis always said that a move outside could be a possibility. This past spring, that possibility became a reality as Browning practiced at the Will linebacker. An Achilles tendon injury to starting middle linebacker Tuf Borland early in spring camp, however, changed a few plans.

Browning was moved back to the middle where he competed with fourth-year junior Justin Hilliard to be the Buckeyes’ middle linebacker in Borland’s absence.

Browning closed spring in a strong fashion, which was encouraging for Davis.

“I would say he took some big steps, and I think he had a good spring game,” he said. “It was one of his better practices of the year. I think Baron is constantly growing. I’m excited for his skill set along with his growth.”

Had Borland not gotten injured, Browning would have stayed outside and competed for a starting spot there. With Borland out until around September, Browning’s move back to the middle may only be temporary, but it isn’t being approached lightly.

And with Browning having a handle on multiple linebacker positions, it gives Davis the flexibility to find his best three linebackers and fit them in a fashion that makes the most sense.

“We’re just trying to get the best group on there at the same time,” Davis said. “It strengthens his ability to play Mike backer when he understands the Will next to him. I think as we go that’s a bonus that you have in the NFL that I’m finding it a little bit harder to get in college because they’re so new to all of it. But I think it’s an athleticism trait that he can go outside or inside.”

The athleticism traits that Davis speaks of aren’t unheard of at Ohio State. This is the same school that has produced athletic linebackers like Ryan Shazier, Jerome Baker, Darron Lee, and A.J. Hawk. But none of those guys have been as big as Baron Browning.

With his combination of size and athleticism, he is the prototype at any of the three linebacker positions. But he is still raw and unproven. Last year was a difficult year for the Buckeye linebackers. Injuries took their toll, as did inconsistencies.

Ohio State can’t afford those same mistakes this year, but there are so many unknowns at linebacker that it wouldn’t be a surprise to see more struggles in 2018.

Eventually, however, the inexperience has to give way to experience. Production has to come from the potential, and few Buckeye linebackers have ever had as much potential as Baron Browning.

Getting him to reach that potential is Bill Davis’ job, and if Browning falls short, Davis knows where the fingers will be pointing.

“As young as he is, there’s so much left to grow and so much left to do,” he said. “When I think of Baron, I think of how much work I have left with him. How much potential he has. But if he doesn’t reap that potential, that’s on me. I have to make sure I can drive him to do that. I’m very excited to work with him. I think he has a huge upside.”

5 Responses

  1. I’m not likely to hold my breath waiting for Bill Davis to become a developer of linebacker talent. It’s one thing to plug and play like he’s always been able to do in the NFL with guys already developed, and entirely new animal actually being the guy who has to do the developing. As a pro LB coach they find the right fits for the position, or trade for the right fit, or pick up free agents who are already molded for their schemes. In College YOU are the guy having to craft the young guys from the ground up. Fundamentals, position requirements, targeting the physical training (having Coach Mick sure helps) for their positions, teachings position techniques, and how to develop scheme and teammate trust that builds chemistry. The coaching profession is very different between the pro’s and College ball. The Buckeyes looked so miserable at linebacker last year that it was often sickening to watch early in the season. That’s ENTIRELY on Bill Davis. Jerome Baker should have left Ohio State as being mentioned along with other all time greats. The same with Chris Worley. I am 100% certain that with Luke Fickell, both of those 2 would have found their way onto All American teams, and Jerome probably still would have returned for his last year. I think he left Ohio State believing he can be a great linebacker, but had no belief that Bill Davis could help him get better.

    There is A LOT to prove for the linebacker room this year and, it starts on September 1st, NOT sometime in late October.

    1. You’ve said all that at least FIFTY times previously!!! You do know that…..right?

      1. You repeat yourself a lot as well, Jim.
        I’m not gonna be as hard on Coach Davis as James is because James always jumps hard on guys early and often. If I remember he was doubting Kerry Coombs along with Coach Withers a few years back. I’m willing to give a coach 1 year to get it together (see my holding back on the OCs the first year they bumbled before turning up the heat Year 2 when the offense still sputtered – the previous OCs, not the current pair). But if there isn’t marked improvement this year – and this is linebackers, not an entire unit so it really needs to be apparent no later than Game 2 or 3 at worst – then Davis will be earning the heat.

        1. At places like Ohio State the guys are held to a very high standard. If guys aren’t producing the CEO has no qualms about calling them out. The coaching staff should be held to an even higher standard. The ONLY Collegiate experience in College he has was as a grad assistant at Michigan State for a year before his dads name got him a professional assistant coaching gig.

          One big “problem” people used to use against Jim Tressel was his hiring of friends and family. The Davis hire REEKS of hiring friends. They both attended Cincinnati, and have a year overlap. It would be unreasonable that Urban Meyer DIDN’T either know Bills dad, so it would be unreasonable to think the connection is just happenstance.

          Yep, I was a miserable ass about Kerry Coombs’ first “2” seasons, not just his first. But, at least he had practical experience educating college student athletes and with working with young kids period before he got to Ohio State. He ended up becoming a GREAT College position coach. I put Davis in the less experienced category than even Everett Withers. A small ball college coach. That’s what the Buckeye linebackers looked like last year with a small ball level coach who had a lot of catering experience to guys who were already taught.

          If the linebackers enter the season the way they did in 2017 it wouldn’t be a shock to see them open the season 1 – 2. The lone win coming against what is going to be an improved Rutgers team. Even though Rutgers is……Rutgers, it would be impossible to think that Chris Ash won’t have them playing better. They return a roster not so different than the Hawkeyes in in 2017. They return a large amount of their production from last year. If the Buckeyes pull another overlook like they did against Iowa last year, Rutger actually has the tools now to pull an upset. Oregon State is busy already preparing with an Oklahoma script to go against NOT the defensive front they KNOW that over matches them, but against the linebackers which ARE the weakest link on the team. Following Rutgers they Buckeyes travel to face an opponent who will have a chip on their shoulders still about Gordon Gee’s comments about them being Little Sisters of the Poor. Probably petty to most people, but you can bet Patterson hasn’t forgotten. The Corned Dogs will be ready. That early in the season with such a young QB on the road, and Patterson who is a pretty darned good defensive coach? Don’t risk betting the farm in that game.

          Davis doesn’t have 2 or 3 games to have the linebackers playing “pre” Davis football. That unit better hit the ground firing on all cylinders.

      2. Of course, and I’ll likely say it again with the next article about the linebackers. It’s just as true today as it was last year when I first started posting it.

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