Over the course of his college career, Corey Brown has shown flashes of what he's capable of as a wide receiver. But he hasn't shown much more than that.
Now entering his junior season at Ohio State, the Philadelphia, Pa. native is ready to be "the guy."
In his first two seasons in Columbus, Brown has recorded 22 catches for 310 yards and two touchdowns. Those numbers are certainly underwhelming when you consider the expectations that were placed on the former four-star recruit coming out of Cardinal O'Hara high school in 2010, but anyone who's watched the the 6-foot, 186-pound receiver knows that his success- or lack thereof- hasn't been because of a lack of speed.
Brown's averaged 14.1 yards per catch during his college career, but inconsistent play in his freshman season and an inept passing game during his sophomore season prevented him from ever emerging as the player many imagine he'd be. His 54-yard touchdown reception against Michigan in 2011 showed just what he's capable of as a deep threat, but plays like that have happened too far and in between in his career.
Just a few months ago, Brown's role in new Ohio State coach Urban Meyer's offense was unclear, and it appeared he could be slipping on the wide receiver depth behind young up-and-comers Devin Smith, Evan Spencer, and Michael Thomas.
But in June, another opportunity for Brown presented itself.
Running back Jordan Hall suffered a cut on his foot that required surgery and is likely to keep him out of at least the Buckeyes' first two games of the 2012 season. Meyer admitted that Hall's injury has "stunted" the growth of his offense, but one man's loss could be another man's gain. And the man who stands to gain the most from Hall's absence could be Brown.
Hall was expected to play the running back-wide receiver hybrid role known as the 'pivot' position in Meyer's offense. The role requires the player playing it to line up in the slot like a wide receiver and often motion back into the backfield and play running back.
The position helped make Percy Harvin a star under Meyer at Florida, and in Hall's absence, Brown will get the first crack at playing it at Ohio State.
"Hopefully I can step in and fill in for him," Brown said. "That's the guy."
Whether Brown will ultimately win the role- and for how long- remains to be seen. Through the first three days of fall camp, he's been splitting time at the pivot with tight end Jake Stoneburner, but it's clear that all of Meyer's offense- especially the plays that highlight the pivot- has yet to have been implemented.
Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman said that Brown's speed makes him an ideal candidate to replace Hall, but also expressed concerns over whether or not his body could handle the increased contact that playing the pivot requires. Nevertheless, Brown is confident that he can handle the pounding.
"I did play running back in high school, but I mean, if the coaches want me to do it, I'll do it," Brown said. "It really doesn't matter to me."
Outside of his new role in the pivot, "Philly" is also enjoying his new role as the the elder statesman in the Buckeyes' receiving corps. With no scholarship seniors playing wideout for Ohio State this season, Brown has assumed a leadership position amongst his fellow receivers.
"Having a new offense, I'm just trying to get in there and learn the offense and share my knowledge with the young guys," Brown said. "It's not really tough. It's a role that I enjoy playing. I enjoy being the leader of the group, kind of getting everybody ready for practice and hyped for practice and calling our own meetings and getting the plays. I enjoy it."
But regardless of whether or not the younger players follow Brown's lead or if he finds himself playing the pivot position or strictly receiver, he's confident that his inconsistencies and the days of 14 catches leading the Buckeyes in receptions are a thing of the past.
"This is a new chapter in our life, you know what I'm saying? We had the 14, but that was last year, we're moved on now," Brown said. "Coach Meyer really emphasized a fresh restart. As long as we do what he wants us to do, he'll put us in the right situations."