When senior safety Christian Bryant went down with a broken ankle against Wisconsin, the Ohio State defense lost one of its most experienced players and a vocal leader.
Although redshirt-senior safety Corey “Pitt” Brown has taken Bryant’s place on the field, it has been senior wide receiver Corey “Philly” Brown who filled the void in the locker room.
“People will listen … In the past, I wouldn’t be able to say something to somebody that wasn’t in my position or on the offense and whatever. They just wouldn’t listen,” “Philly” Brown said after practice Wednesday. “But now, I mean, offense, defense, specials, I mean everybody listens to me now, so I know that I got the power of influence.”
After the game against Iowa Oct. 19, coach Urban Meyer said “Philly” Brown has stepped up as a leader in the locker room since Bryant’s injury against Wisconsin Sept. 28.
“When you lose a Christian Bryant, I keep looking for that next guy and I found him, I think. It’s No. 10, ‘Philly’ Brown,” Meyer said last Saturday. “The emotional guy that’s in that locker room and the kickoff team.”
“Philly” Brown’s leadership role is a huge improvement over last season, said Meyer, who added that the wide receiver has become a player he can really rely on.
“‘Philly’ Brown, I wouldn’t walk across the street from him last year. Now he’s a guy (who is) an incredible leader,” Meyer said after the game against Iowa. “I just looked at him: ‘Don’t let me down.’ He was phenomenal today. He was picking up the slack that (Christian Bryant left).”
“Philly” Brown leads the team with 33 catches for 453 yards and six touchdowns so far this season.
But Meyer said “Philly” Brown’s growth has been much more visible off the field.
“He’s (180-degrees) to where he was. He’s an absolute leader of this team, unchallenged, unquestionable, maybe one of the leaders. He is one of the leaders, one of the top two or three leaders on the team. If you said that a year ago, we would have gotten in an argument, because that’s not who he was of the his development as a person, a player, as a student, I couldn’t say enough,” Meyer said.
Even defensive coordinator Luke Fickell has been impressed with “Philly” Brown’s growth as a player and a leader.
“Guys can say things at any point in time, but it’s the guys that with their actions are consistent and that’s what you’ve seen with ‘Philly,’ whether it’s in practice, whether it’s in the game,” Fickell said after the Iowa game.
Against the Hawkeyes, the Buckeyes headed into halftime struggling, after scoring only 10 points, a season-low, and allowing the Hawkeyes to score on each of their first three drives.
Junior wide receiver Devin Smith said moods were low in the locker room, but “Philly” Brown helped bring the energy back up heading into the second half.
“We came in and you can kind of tell that the locker room was dead, just from everybody just really not saying nothing,” Smith said Monday. “Everyone just looking at each other … ‘Philly’ just stood up and basically just said, ‘This is not how we play.’ He was screaming and just letting it pour out, really. Basically he was saying, ‘This is not us, this is not how we play. We need to come out this half and really show them what we’re about.’”
“Philly” Brown said as soon as the whistle blew for halftime, he wanted to talk to the team to let them know what needed to be done to secure the victory.
“I walked up to coach Meyer and I asked him, I asked him if I could say something to the team before we went out … I can’t say the exact words that I used, but it was some bad words in there and I just told them what we looked like and what we needed to do,” “Philly” Brown said.
After trailing, 17-10, at halftime, OSU outscored the Hawkeyes, 24-7, in the second half en route to the 34-24 victory.
Meyer agreed and said “Philly” Brown’s intensity helped push the Buckeyes to victory.
“He doesn’t just open his mouth up,” Meyer said. “It’s nice to have a team meeting and show that to the team. Because they heard what he said. And then it’s easy to pop your mouth off and go sit in the back and sulk or throw your helmet. And he didn’t, he went as hard as he could. That’s the sign of a really good leader.”
The Buckeyes are scheduled to host Penn State Saturday at 8 p.m. and look to push their winning streak to 20 games.
“Philly” Brown said having a vocal leader on the team is nice for the players because it changes up the routine.
“When a coach screams, you can kind of blank them out and just not really try to hear what they’re saying,” “Philly” Brown said. “But when a person that’s actually out there on the field with you, grinding and in the war with you, when they say it, that’s when you know it’s real.”