Ohio State’s Corey “Philly” Brown showed how far he’s come as a wide receiver with two quality touchdown receptions against San Diego State last week.
On one, he held off a defender with a forearm while catching the ball in stride. On the other, he rose above two defenders, twisted in midair and made a two-handed grab falling backward.
Brown, though, minimized the seasoned moves, preferring to give more of the credit to quarterback Kenny Guiton.
On the first, he said: “Kenny threw a perfect throw. We had the perfect play call. The corner was really close in press-man (coverage). And it was an easy catch, harder throw.”
Asked about the second, he said: “Easy catch, harder throw.”
But those maneuvers wouldn’t have been so easy for Brown before this year, a fact not lost on coach Urban Meyer. “I’ve been critical of the wide receivers,” he said, “but he’s a wide receiver now.”
The 6-foot, 190-pound senior came to OSU as a two-way player from Philadelphia (which is how he got his nickname since the Buckeyes have another Corey Brown on the roster, from Pittsburgh). He was a running back and cornerback, but he was converted into a receiver as a freshman and felt out of place.
“It was a hard transition at first. I never played wideout until I got here,” he said. “But I had good leaders in DeVier (Posey) and Dane (Sanzenbacher) and all those dudes who helped me get to where I am today. I’m blessed.”
But Brown, who led the Buckeyes and was fourth in the Big Ten with an average of five catches per game in 2012, had trouble adjusting to the demanding style of Meyer and his staff when they arrived last year. And he wasn’t alone.
“When they first got here, nobody really trusted them. We didn’t know what they would bring to the table,” he said. “Having a year under our belts, we’ve got a way better relationship now.
“When they first got here, we had those 4 or 5 a.m. workouts outside in the snow. I don’t think anybody had anything good to say about them at that point. Now, everybody around here loves them. They’re doing all the right things. They’re putting us in position to win games.”
In Meyer’s eyes, Brown has been a big part in building a winning culture, too.
“Philly has done a great job. His evolution as a leader and performer in the weight room, the way he’s taking care of himself, the way he’s mentoring young people, he’s falling into that category of guys that have made a 180,” Meyer said.
“I’m a big Philly Brown guy right now, and I was not at all last year. … His transition, it’s legitimate. He is a wide receiver who maybe could play again after this year (in the NFL), and if you would have said that at this time last year — no chance.”
Meyer, though, hasn’t let up on Brown and fellow receiver Devin Smith. He wants more yards after the catch and chastised them after the San Diego State game for dancing around too much instead of breaking tackles.
Brown apparently has that ability since he rushed for more than 3,000 yards in high school. But he’s only shown it in flashes at OSU. And reminded at his press luncheon about Brown’s background as a running back, Meyer smiled and said, “First of all, he was a very poor running back, and you can tell him I said that.”
But told about Meyer’s remarks, Brown fired back — a sign perhaps of how far their relationship has come since the feeling-out process last year.
“I had more rushing yards than every running back we have on this roster now in high school, so I guess I was pretty good,” he said.
Schedule update: The Buckeyes have been criticized for their light nonleague schedule, but they couldn’t help that Cal dropped off so much since agreeing to the series years ago, and it gets much tougher after this season.
In 2014, they play Navy at Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium and then host Kent State, Virginia Tech and Cincinnati.
In 2015, they play North Carolina and Virginia Tech. After that, they’ll launch two-year series with Oklahoma, TCU, Boston College and Texas through 2023.
Sounding off: Cal starts a true freshman at quarterback in Jared Goff, but he’s passed for a NCAA-leading 935 yards in two games and isn’t lacking in confidence.
“Honestly, I think our offense can match up with any defense in the country,” he said.
Ohio State (2-0) at California (1-1), 7 p.m. Saturday, FOX, 1410