Thursday night, Ohio State added another key piece to its highly-ranked recruiting class, bringing another talented prospect in to Urban Meyer’s program. What will their latest verbal bring to Columbus on, and off, the field?
The Buckeyes added a mega-commitment this week as 5-star linebacker Baron Browning committed to Ohio State over Alabama, TCU, UCLA, Notre Dame, Michigan and others.
What are they getting from this big new addition?
As a football player
It’s not often that you find any high school football player that moves like Browning does. It’s even more rare when you consider that he’s 6-feet-4 and 230 pounds. That’s the first thing that pops when you examine that value of Browning as a football player. You’re talking about a linebacker built like a defensive end that runs like a wide receiver, and that’s pretty good.
Just watch these highlights. It’s almost a touch unfair.
That doesn’t mean he’s a finished product, though. In fact, he’s not really even close to being one.
“The thing about Baron,” one source close to his recruitment shared with Land of 10, “is that he’s just scratching the surface of what he can do. He’s a great young player now, but most of that is just because he’s such a freak athlete. When he actually learns how to play the game and gets into a college weight program? Look out. There’s no limit to the things he’s capable of.”
The Buckeyes defense has been utilizing freak athletes at their Sam linebacker position over the last few years, starting with Ryan Shazier, and that’s certainly one way that Browning could be used. I think, however, that he’s just as capable of being a big-time inside linebacker. That will really become a matter of development, and from Shazier to Chris Worley and Jerome Baker, Ohio State has excelled in developing that position in recent years.
Browning excels in pass coverage and is a laser-guided, heat-seeking missile laterally and is well-above average as a pass rusher. He will need to work on leverage when it comes to becoming a run stuffer, but he’s got the tools – physical and mental – to pick things up quickly.
His role in the 2017 recruiting class
With his commitment, Browning – the ninth-ranked player in the nation – becomes the highest-ranked player in Ohio State’s class, just ahead of Miamisburg, Ohio’s Josh Myers (10th). He is the sixth 5-star verbal commit for the Buckeyes in 2017, which gives them one more 5-star than Alabama to this point, good for best in the nation.
Browning – because of Wednesday’s decommitment from Antjuan Simmons – is the lone “pure” linebacker in Ohio State’s class right now, though Brendon White will likely start his Buckeyes career at that position as well. With Browning on board, look for Ohio State to turn all of its linebacker recruiting attention to Indianapolis 4-star Pete Werner, who decommitted from Notre Dame on Monday.
The 16th player in the Buckeyes class, Browning is the second Ohio State commitment in the 2017 group from Texas, joining 4-star running back J.K. Dobbins. That pair is likely to be joined soon by 5-star defensive back Jeffrey Okudah. The addition of Browning (and likely Okudah) could help pave the way for the Buckeyes to also land 5-star defensive tackle Marvin Wilson out of Bellaire, Texas. The three 5-stars made their official visit to Ohio State together and have openly discussed playing together at the next level.
An early enrollee, Browning will head to Ohio State in January after he plays in the U.S .Army All-American game on Jan. 7 in San Antonio.
He is one of 14 Buckeye verbals that participated in Nike’s The Opening this past summer in Beaverton, Ore.
The off-the-field, intangible-type stuff
It’s always great to get a commitment from a 5-star prospect, obviously, but Browning is a 5-star kid as well. On top of that, Ohio State held off a serious push from Alabama (not that the Tide will give up, of course), and that is always important to Urban Meyer and his coaching staff. To keep him from Nick Saban, Jim Harbaugh, TCU (where his father played), Notre Dame and everyone else that was recruiting him? That’s a big, big win for the Buckeyes.
Browning is a joker, a fun-loving person who is regarded as a great teammate. Prior to announcing his commitment, he messaged the Ohio State coaching staff and said he was going to commit elsewhere. He’s that type of guy, who wants to keep people on their toes, just to joke around with them. While that may have caused a coronary or two around the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, it highlights his personality and what makes him so respected and loved by his peers.
With Tom Herman now at Texas, the Buckeyes are sure to find it more difficult to land Lone Star State prospects in the near future. In 2017, they are in a position to land three of that state’s top six players, and maybe four. That’s a major statement and helps keep a closing door open, at least a little.