On Wednesday night, Ohio State’s practice was halted early when sophomore wide receiver Noah Brown suffered a serious injury, later confirmed by an OSU spokesman to be a broken left leg that will cost the wideout the entire 2015 season.
A standout in practices this offseason, Brown had essentially locked up his spot as one of the core wideouts in rotation. Many expected a breakout season from the 6-foot-2, 222-pound sophomore. Brown even dropped weight so he’d be a faster, better-rounded receiver that’d be capable of taking on a bigger role in OSU’s offense.
Given the current news, it looks like Brown will have to wait another year to take on that role.
Who will be stepping into his shoes is a whole new concern all on its own. Considering the Week One suspensions that were handed out in late July to redshirt sophomore Jalin Marshall and junior Dontre Wilson, both H-backs, as well as redshirt senior wideout Corey Smith, Brown’s injury only complicates matters for coach Urban Meyer and his staff.
Yet, there are still plenty of options to turn to.
With redshirt junior Michael Thomas already penciled in as the first-string wideout on the depth chart, seemingly all other slots below him are up for grabs as the Sept. 7 opener at Virginia Tech draws closer.
A player whose career started out rocky because of injury issues, redshirt freshman Johnnie Dixon could fill in for Brown quite nicely. The former four-star receiver out of West Palm Beach, Florida, entered last season surrounded by hype and lofty expectations before knee surgery effectively ended those dreams early on. If healthy, Dixon can be a difference maker in the Buckeyes’ spread offense with his blazing deep-threat speed.
A popular candidate who will likely be given the bulk of the work after Thomas is redshirt senior quarterback-turned-receiver Braxton Miller. The two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year brings game-changing versatility and athletic capabilities unlike any other player on OSU’s roster. In other words, when Miller is on the field, there’s always a chance for a either a big play or a touchdown.
Meyer all but guaranteed that Miller would start against the Hokies at the conclusion of practice on Saturday, saying that his “plan is to try to get him ready to do that.”
Behind Thomas, Dixon and Miller sits a group of young playmakers filled with nothing but potential. Another converted quarterback, freshman Torrance Gibson, is learning the position and is off to a quick start in fall camp.
Redshirt freshmen Terry McLaurin and Parris Campbell round out the replacement options. However, the coaching staff may lean toward giving significant minutes to more experienced players like sophomore H-back and backup running back Curtis Samuel, who spent a lot of time this offseason splitting out as a receiver.
In any case, there’s ample time for Meyer and his staff to figure things out. Putting together a cohesive, winning combination of pass-catchers will be of the utmost importance when facing a defense of Virginia Tech’s caliber.
However unfortunate it might be, Brown’s injury is not a terribly crushing blow to the Buckeyes’ offense. The team still has strong candidates to replace Brown. Maybe the most unfortunate part of the injury is that the Scarlet and Gray will have to wait another full year to get a chance to see the player coaches were setting up for a breakout season.