Land of 10/file photo
Baron Browning looks poised for a breakout year at linebacker for Ohio State.

Ohio State football: Bet on big breakout year for Baron Browning

Austin Ward

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The first step for Baron Browning at Ohio State is winning a starting job at middle linebacker. And from there, it might be safe to assume that a talented defender who is drawing comparisons to Raekwon McMillan might be next in line to lead the Buckeyes in tackling. After all, McMillan did that twice and anybody playing in the heart of the unit has plenty of chances to get involved and rack up hits.

That doesn’t necessarily make Browning a rock-solid lock, though. Just looking at the Urban Meyer era, while a linebacker has paced the team in tackles during all of his seasons at Ohio State, the Silver Bullets have often been turning guys loose from the outside to make plays and stuff the stats sheet. Ryan Shazier (twice), Joshua Perry and Jerome Baker have all finished as the most productive tackler in this small sample size going back to 2012. That worth noting only as a factor in establishing some odds for this season.

Ohio State-Jerome Baker-Ohio State Buckeyes-Ohio State football-Ohio State linebackers
Jerome Baker finished off his last season at Ohio State as the team’s leading tackler. (Land of 10/file photo)

Perhaps that means an athletic, versatile guy on the edge like Malik Harrison makes the most sense as the early favorite. Or maybe Jordan Fuller, coming off a season where he finished second with 70 tackles, will continue using his development to pile up even more takedowns. Of course, if Tuf Borland had been given the full-time starting job in the middle earlier last season, his steady pace might have put him on top for the Buckeyes and kept the streak rolling for the Mike ‘backers.

The other caveat, of course, is that Browning isn’t assured of the primary role in what should be a competitive battle of former 5-star recruits against Justin Hilliard in training camp. On top of that, Borland is projected to be healthy again by September as he recovers from his Achilles injury, which could be another potential hurdle for Browning.

But the buzz around Browning has been building since before the Cotton Bowl, with his work on the practice field already standing out and forcing Ohio State to brainstorm ways to get him on the field. He was one of the stars of spring, and an opportunity has presented itself now at his natural position. There’s no reason to expect at this point that he won’t make the most of this chance, even if the work is only beginning.

So, will Browning emerge as the next leading tackler for the Buckeyes? For now, just keep him on the short list of candidates — or maybe get the money in early on a breakout that seems pretty likely to happen by the fall.

 

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