Ohio State held a team scrimmage on Saturday morning, the team's eighth practice of fall camp, and the early returns indicate the defense got the better of the offense on a spectacular day for football in Columbus, Ohio.
In head coach Ryan Day's first extended look at the team padded up and going full contact, two pick sixes were notable happenings along with the efforts of Baron Browning, who caught Day's attention from both the middle and outside linebacker spots.
Q. And you're about halfway through camp. Who's flashed? Who's really impressed you to this point?
RYAN DAY: On the whole team or -- well, I want to look at the film today. Today was really the first day in pads that we've hit, that we've tackled to the ground. A lot of the stuff leading up to this point we were kind of installing, and you didn't get a good feel for that. Today was a little bit more of a feel for that. I want to get on the film and see what that was all about, but certainly the defensive line I thought did a good creating penetration. You felt that, and Baron Browning has shown so far that he's really made a lot of progress in a short period of time. That's been exciting.
I think our secondary is getting their hands on a lot of balls. We had a couple of pick-sixes out there which was really good today. I think those guys are doing a good job. I want to watch the film and really grade it and see how guys graded out, but we're going to treat it like a game and see how everybody did in terms of a grade, and then we'll go from there.
Q. You mentioned Baron Browning. Where is he, middle linebacker, Will, what's he doing right now?
RYAN DAY: Yeah, he's playing mostly in the middle. He'll move around a little bit, though. He plays fast. He's very, very athletic that way. He's physical. He's big. He's strong. I think Al (Washington) is doing a good job with him in terms of understanding and diagnosing plays and being in the right spot at the right time. I think all the linebackers are doing a good job. It's a long, athletic group right there, and so they're off to a good start.
It's no secret last season's linebacker corps, particularly those not named Malik Harrison, struggled against both the run and pass as Ohio State's defense surrendered the most points and yards per game in school history.
This season, the entire group returns but only Harrison seems to have a definitive starting role (at the will linebacker spot) even though Tuf Borland (mike) and Pete Werner (sam) remain in the fold.
Could this be the year Browning seizes more playing time?
In 2018, the Fort Worth, Texas product played in 12 games logging 289 snaps, 23 tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss as the definitive fourth linebacker. Browning even made three starts while also serving as a gunner on the kickoff team.
That output followed a true freshman season in which he saw action in 12 games, mostly on special teams, tallying 14 stops.
There's no doubt Browning has the size to play in the middle at 6-foot-3, 248 pounds although his pedigree screams outside linebacker after he arrived at Ohio State as a 5-star early-enrollee ranked as the nation's No. 1 outside linebacker by the three main recruiting services.
Though a starting gig at either spot is likely a long shot, it feels like Day's vision of having enough depth to rotate linebackers the way Larry Johnson rotates defensive linemen could be evolving before our eyes.
Harrison is going to see a ton of snaps, it's hard to envision Borland and Werner not still being heavy rotational guys and of course Day noted at Big Ten media days sophomore Teradja Mitchell was pushing Borland in the middle.
And of course, the unit features two more sophomores in Dallas Gant and K'Vaughan Pope that would love to see the field. Pope stood out Saturday too with a pick-six.
With all that depth, it will be interesting to see if Browning can match the hype he came in with and carve out an even larger role than he played in 2018. There's no doubt the defense could use a major boost at linebacker after last season's struggles.