Devin Brown didn’t make it far into his first spring practice before a rude awakening signaled his true arrival at Ohio State.
In fact, the true freshman quarterback may not have made it past the first play of live action.
“Probably the first play I watched live, or the first play that I was in live in our first practice. It’s just a whole different world with how fast everything’s coming and what different blitzes are coming,” Brown said in an interview session following Wednesday practice. “Once they started bringing blitzes, it’s like, this is way different than anything I’ve ever seen before. So it’s like wow, this really is a big step. … I wouldn’t say that (it’s intimidating), it’s just new. You just gotta get used to it.”
If his performance at Saturday’s Student Appreciation Day practice was any indication, Brown has already gotten the hang of a thing or two around the Woody Hayes Athletic Center since that first practice. The former USC commit and No. 6-rated quarterback prospect in the country out of high school put his arm talent on display with more than one standout throw that invoked a palpable excitement out of the crowd on hand at the indoor facility.
During 7-on-7 drills, Brown dropped a pass in to Emeka Egbuka deep down the right sideline, putting the ball where only the second-year wideout could make a play on it after fending off tight coverage from walk-on cornerback Andrew Moore. The one-handed catch might have been the highlight of the day for Egbuka, but Brown had an even more impressive delivery later on in practice.
Stop what you're doing and check out this insane one-handed catch by Emeka Egbuka. pic.twitter.com/kk5OjHIbPe— Justin Holbrock (@NBC4Justin) April 2, 2022
In live reps during 11-on-11 drills, Brown rifled another downfield dart into a tight window to freshman wide receiver Kyion Grayes for a 30-yard connection in the left corner of the end zone that put six points on the board for the offense.
And if those two plays weren’t enough to convince a doubter of Brown’s talent early on in his Buckeye career, the way C.J. Stroud raved about the first-year passer on Wednesday will likely be enough to do the trick.
“Devin is really exciting me. I think he’s gonna be a Buckeye great, honestly,” Stroud said. “I actually see myself in him when it comes to the way he moves in the pocket, the way he throws the ball, his throwing motion. He has a lot of similarities that I have, and he runs the ball really well too. Just good kid, smart, appreciates the game. He wants to be here, so I appreciate people like that.”
Even with the early success he’s had during his first spring, it hasn’t been all smooth sailing for Brown. During one three-play sequence during 11-on-11 work last weekend, the freshman fumbled two snaps, precipitating an earful from head coach Ryan Day and a quick exit from the field in favor of a new unit on offense.
A couple botched snaps in a three-play sequence with Devin Brown at QB here. pic.twitter.com/PcrRE0uSAv— Griffin Strom (@GriffinStrom3) April 2, 2022
Brown said the feedback he’s gotten from Day has been wide-ranging in tone as he adjusts to the caliber of play at the next level.
“Just depends on what kind of day it is, to be honest,” Brown said with a laugh when describing his mid-practice conversations with Day. “No, it’s all been good, he knows it’s early on and keeps telling me, ‘Steady in the boat. Don’t ride the roller-coaster, it’s never too high, never too low, just stay ready.’”
Day likes what he’s seen from Brown thus far, even though he acknowledges there’s been bumps in the road along the way.
“Pleased with the first nine practices. It can be a little tough there sometimes with the threes, but he's making it work,” Day said Monday. “You saw his athleticism and what he can do pulling the ball and he's got a strong arm. So the more reps he gets, the better he's going to be.”
At Corner Canyon High School in Draper, Utah, Brown said he didn’t even have to worry about more than one kind of pass protection from his offensive line up front, let alone all the wrinkles Jim Knowles and company have been installing to the revamped Ohio State defense in the offseason.
Compared with what he was seeing at this time a year ago, Brown is in a whole different world at Ohio State.
“Night and day. I never really had to worry about protections in high school. We were either pass blocking or run blocking, and our pass blocking was the same thing every time,” Brown said. “It really was never different for me in high school, so getting out here I got to know what blitzes I got coming and what fronts we have, what defense has. There’s a lot of different things that can go into play.
“It gets better every practice. Those first few snaps live, it’s like, ‘Wow, it’s coming fast.’ You got guys right in your face, you can’t see routes, but it’ll just slow down over time and I’ll know where guys are at.”
One of the most helpful aspects of Brown’s transition has been the aid of his teammates in Corey Dennis’ quarterback room. Despite the obvious competition taking place, particularly between Stroud’s two top backups, Brown said the camaraderie has been a bright spot during his first few months as a Buckeye.
“It’s definitely a big learning curve. I honestly feel like I expected worse. But it’s been pretty smooth, I mean I love this room,” Brown said. “Me and Kyle (McCord) are really close, me and C.J. are really close, me and Chad (Ray). Literally there’s no hatred for anybody in this group. Everybody loves each other, everybody wants the best for each other. It’s a really cool environment in there, and it’s so cool to learn from each one of them. And it’s so crazy how much each guy knows and how different everybody’s game is, and you just kind of feed off of each other.”
In providing assistance to Brown and company, Stroud said he’s just carrying on the example that was set for him by former Buckeye quarterback Justin Fields and those that came before him.
“My role is just to be a big brother to them and show them guidance and show them the things that I see. Maybe it could help them, maybe they see it different,” Stroud said. “I know Justin did that with me, Dwayne (Haskins) probably did that with his younger guys, so I think that’s just the Buckeye way. Cardale (Jones) even helps me now. I appreciate those guys for helping, so I try to do the same.”
But barring injuries, Stroud isn’t likely to relinquish many reps at the quarterback position this season unless his offense puts enough points between Ohio State and the opposition to justify Day calling off the dogs.
Brown may not be expecting any lion’s share of snaps come September, but he’s impressing with the snaps he’s taking so far this spring, and he’ll look to do the same in the spring game on April 16.
“You just gotta be ready when your number’s called, no matter what. Coach Day preaches that all the time,” Brown said. “You just gotta be ready to go when you’re called, that’s really how I’m treating it. I’m not worried about where I am or anything like that, just trying to get better and learn from these guys.”