Ohio State sophomore Baron Browning is a different type of linebacker than redshirt sophomore and team captain Tuf Borland.
While talking about Borland’s sense of on-ball defense during Monday’s press conference, defensive coordinator Greg Schiano praised Browning’s ability to cover ground, using his 6-foot-4, 238-pound frame to cover receivers and tight ends, an ability his coach calls “unbelievable.”
Browning’s physical attributes, his ability to run and his ability to cover is not something that is hard for him.
“You can’t give anybody credit except God,” Browning said. “I’m just using the abilities he blessed me with.”
Browning has not been without his own set of challenges in his second season with Ohio State, though.
After Borland went down with an Achilles injury in March, Browning, primarily an outside linebacker, moved to the middle, taking on the responsibilities of what many call the “quarterback” of the defense, a position that he had never been in before.
“You have to get yourself lined up as well as everybody else,” Browning said. “You have to make all the checks, the calls, get the D-line set.”
Browning said he watched and sought counsel from former teammates that have played the middle inside linebacker position, players like former Ohio State linebackers Chris Worley and Raekwon McMillan. He said he even talked to Borland after the captain returned from his injury, with both giving each other positive feedback and tips to make each other better.
One of the main things he took away from these players was the amount of responsibility Browning now had on his shoulders at the middle linebacker position. To him, his new position carries a considerable weight in terms of leadership, more than he ever had on the outside.
“It’s more of a responsibility versus just being outside, getting the call and worrying about your job,” Browning said. “You got to take care of everybody.”
Browning described it as having a “different personality” when playing in the middle linebacker spot. This was something he had to get used to quick, starting each of the first two games for Ohio State this season.
He said he was nervous prior to the season opener against Oregon State, but felt more confident with each snap he took, especially going into the second game against Rutgers.
As Borland continues to rehab, getting closer and closer to consistent in-game action, Browning said linebackers coach Bill Davis and the rest of the Ohio State coaching staff has not given clarification about the rotation between him and Borland and if it would continue.
Browning was not surprised about the linebacker rotation heading into the season.
“Our room in general, we have a lot of talented linebackers,” Browning said. “It’s going to be a big rotation. From inside to outside we have a lot of guys that can play.”
Browning now knows, even despite growing pains in the middle linebacker spot, he has to become one of the leaders of the defense on the field. He said he has started to act like it.
“Just being loud and knowing I got to get everybody set and make all the calls and I can’t be wrong,” Browning said. “Even if I am wrong, be loud with it.”