Sophomore linebacker Baron Browning entered the 2018 offseason with high expectations, both from himself and his coaches. Those expectations took a bit of a left turn when starting middle linebacker Tuf Borland injured his Achilles tendon, leaving the Buckeyes in need of a new middle linebacker.
Linebackers coach Bill Davis moved Browning inside to replace Borland and that’s where he stayed the rest of the season.
Browning started the first two games before giving way to a healthy-enough-to-start Borland at TCU. Browning still saw action, substituting in on passing downs and other situations. He did miss two games due to an injury later in the year, but was healthy enough to take part in each of the last two wins for the Buckeyes.
It has been an up-and-down season for Browning, who currently has 22 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, and a sack. More importantly than his own season, however, has been the year for the Buckeyes. Specifically how they bounced back from a loss at Purdue to capture yet another Big Ten Championship.
“Unbelievable, man,” Browning said of winning a second conference title in as many years. “We’ve been through a lot this season. The adversity we faced in the beginning during training camp, losing our coach. It’s just been a ride and I’m grateful for all of it because it brought this whole team together. Our bond is unbreakable.”
Despite being called upon to move positions, then giving way to Borland in the starting lineup, and then dealing with his own injuries, Browning doesn’t view this season as frustrating because there was always a job to do.
“I don’t think it’s been frustrating, it’s all just been a learning experience,” he said. “Just being able to sit back when I’m not in and Tuf’s in, just being able to see what’s going on. Being able to coach him up when he comes to the sideline and give him feedback to let him know what I see or what’s going on. And it’s the same with me when I’m out there. He’s doing the same. We’re brothers. There’s no frustration. Of course we’re going to compete because we’re in the same group. And I’m not even speaking for just me and him, even the outside linebackers. Iron sharpens iron, we just push each other.”
In fact, Browning sees having two middle linebackers as a positive. It’s two sets of eyes watching from two different perspectives, with both having something positive to contribute.
“Yeah, and it’s not just inside in the middle,” he said. “And it’s not just the linebackers. It’s in the D-line, the back end, we all do the same with one another. We all try to pick each other up when we’re down and just give positive feedback. That’s what it’s all about.”
Despite the teamwork at middle linebacker, the goal is to get the three best linebackers on the field together. If that three includes both Borland and Browning, one of them will have to move positions. Seeing as how Browning is better suited for the outside than Borland, does this mean a move is coming for 2019?
“I can’t predict anything and I don’t know,” Browning said. “I can’t predict, I’m just going to go out there and play and do what I’m asked to do and be a team player.”