Linebacker Baron Browning Isn't Worried About the Coaching Change at His Position — He's Had Experience With That Before

By Eric Seger on February 4, 2017 at 8:10 am
Baron Browning said he isn't worried about Ohio State getting a new linebackers coach even though Luke Fickell most recruited him.

Tom Herman knows how important Texas is in recruiting. He knew that before but it especially under a microscope now that he is the head coach of the Longhorns, a program that trended south under Charlie Strong and prays he is the revitalizer.

To do that, Herman must keep the top talent in the massive state of Texas home. That didn't happen this recruiting cycle, as Herman came aboard in Austin in late November after two years at the University of Houston. The majority of the best players the state already had their minds up they were going to head elsewhere.

“I have to make sure that three of the top six players in the state don't leave the state again,” Herman said at his signing day press conference on Wednesday.

Those three are linebacker Baron Browning, cornerback Jeffrey Okudah and running back J.K. Dobbins. All enrolled at Ohio State on Jan. 9 and are set to take part in spring drills. They are part of an incredible haul from the Lone Star State by the Buckeyes, with wide receiver Elijah Gardiner and junior college cornerback Kendall Sheffield set to join the fray in the coming months.

But that's not to say Herman didn't send out a last-ditch effort to keep some of them home. Just ask Browning.

“I couldn't be mad about it. I just had to adjust. It was the same here.”– Baron Browning on New Position Coaches

“Coach Herman is a good coach but I really didn't talk to him much throughout my recruiting process,” Browning said on Wednesday. “I talked to him a little when he was at Houston and he tried to make a late push for me with the Coach Fickell thing. But at that point in time, it was just too late and I already had my mind made up for where I wanted to go. There was no looking back at that point.”

"The Coach Fickell thing" is the eventual departure of former defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Luke Fickell from Ohio State. He is now the head coach at the University of Cincinnati, replaced by Billy Davis. Fickell — and since-departed quarterbacks coach Tim Beck — led the way in Browning's recruitment. They now coach at different institutions.

Coaches change jobs all the time but doing so leaves behind crucial adjustment periods for the players they lure to their former employers. And it is magnified for someone like Browning, the best 2017 linebacker prospect in Texas. He isn't too worried, though, due to past experiences.

“We talked about it but at the same time it just kind of reminded me about my high school situation because freshman year of high school I had one defensive coordinator and after my freshman year, he left. I had another guy come in,” Browning said. “I couldn't be mad about it. I just had to adjust. It was the same here.”

Browning said he saw rumors about Fickell leaving in the media, and the coach was up front and honest with him before he signed. Director of Player Personnel Mark Pantoni said Beck did the same thing with not only Browning but others — Beck's ties in Texas helped the Buckeyes land so many top prospects from that state this year. Pantoni also said Beck deserves most of the credit for landing Shaun Wade from Jacksonville as well.

“The great thing that Tim did and Luke did, they were always very up front and honest with these kids and their families,” Pantoni said. “There was no deception, no hiding. When they knew they were going to be leaving, they were very up front with the families.

Beck, Fickell, Browning, Meyer, Schiano via Browning's Twitter
Taken two months before signing day — two of these men no longer work at Ohio State.

“I think the families really appreciated that and made the switch a lot easier.”

Added Browning: “[Fickell] was honest with me. We talked about it, so it wasn't that big of a deal at the time. It wasn't like he kept me out of the loop.”

The Urban Meyer factor plays a massive role in any player's decision-making process and as long as he remains at Ohio State, top prospects will want to come to Columbus. The Ohio State recruiting train is blazing ahead at an alarming rate right now, as the Buckeyes are hand picking any player they want.

But position switches can cause second thoughts. Browning, though, kept other things in the forefront. Just like he did when staff attrition occurred at Kennedale High School. That is ultimately why he chose to leave Texas and Herman's new regime for Ohio State.

He just liked it more.

“The university is still going to be the university,” Browning said of his new home. “It's not going to change.”

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