COLUMBUS — Baron Browning redefined versatility at Ohio State.
When the Buckeyes needed a middle linebacker last season against Michigan State, the outside linebacker moved inside. And he didn’t just do the bare minimum, he made a significant impact on the game. He recorded four total tackles, forced a fumble and graded out as a champion.
The 6-foot-4, 230-pound linebacker had his best season at Ohio State last year when he moved back to his roots at outside linebacker. For much of his Ohio State career, Browning played inside linebacker. With the departure of Malik Harrison, however, Ohio State needed somebody to make the switch.
So Browning slid to the outside, back to the position that made him a a five-star prospect coming out of Kennedale, Texas. With a large frame and strong instincts of tracking down the ball, Browning made his way into opposing backfields easily coming off the edge. The result was a five-star rating and being named one of the top-20 prospects in the 2017 class.
Ohio State witnessed a lot of those similar qualities in 2020. Across seven games, Browning tallied 30 total tackles and two forced fumbles. He also had three tackles for loss and two pass break ups.
ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. has picked up on Browning’s versatility, too. The linebacker is ranked as the No. 5 inside linebacker on Kiper’s board.
“Baron Browning would be the one,” said Kiper of Buckeyes moving up draft boards. “Versatile linebacker. Tremendous overall talent, has really come on to maybe become a third round pick. Heâ€™s definitely moved up. … But I think when you look at the guy that is moving up the board a little bit — based on the just way he played, the way he finished, and I think also anticipating the way he will test — it would be Baron Browning.”
Browning worked with two position coaches in his Ohio State career.Â His freshman and sophomore year were with Urban Meyer’s linebackers coach Bill Davis.
He played 14 games in those two seasons, setting up a breakout 2019 season. Working with Ryan Day’s linebackers coach Al Washington his junior year, Browning had his best statical season with 11 tackles for loss and five sacks.
He could’ve left for the NFL Draft then. But he returned, learning from Washington for another season. Due to COVID-19, much of last year was spent making sure the Buckeyes played games, but Browning’s experience served him well.
â€œItâ€™s our job to find a way to keep guys engaged, give them roles and give them an opportunity to contribute,â€ Washington said. â€œBecause we need it.â€
What Browning really showed last year was the ability to be an all-around defender.
He could be a pass rusher from the outside, shedding blockers and forcing pressure. He proved to be a strong inside linebacker when called on, filling his assigned gap. He defended passes, showing his ability to line up as a cornerback in short down situations.
All those qualities make Baron Browning attractive to NFL teams.