Last year, the Ohio State head coach and his assistants couldn’t stop raving about Darron Lee, a linebacker coming off a medical redshirt in his first season in Columbus. This year, those kind words are coming in descriptions of Noah Brown, a sophomore who recorded three touches as a true freshman in 2014 – one carry, one reception and one kickoff return.
It would be unfair to limit Brown’s impact to the times he touched the ball, though. By the time the season ended, the New Jersey native was seeing his share of snaps and had come to be regarded as a valuable blocker.
Brown spent his first season in Columbus listed as an “H” but it appears that his future could be out wide. He played at 240 pounds last fall, but the new roster for spring practices lists him at a much slimmer weight of 222.
His new build has caught the eye of cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs, who said Brown looks quicker while still maintaining his strength. OSU wide receivers coach Zach Smith not only agreed with that assessment but also said it has translated into production for a guy who was ranked as the No. 123 overall prospect in the nation coming out of high school.
“Noah Brown has probably had as good a spring as I could have wanted,” Smith said on Thursday. “He’s dropped 25 pounds. He’s at a different level than he was at in the fall, so I am really, really pleased with where he is at. He’s come a long way and he’s still got a little bit of work to do, but he’s looking like a guy who is going to contribute heavily in the fall.
When Michael Thomas’ spring was cut short by a sports hernia surgery, Brown got the chance to develop his versatility. With Ohio State’s offense loaded with weapons, the ability to line up at multiple spots and give defenses different looks could be his path to an increased role
“Noah’s worked all the spots,” Smith said. “He’s right now at X just because Mike’s out. Not saying he can’t be the X because he certainly can and he’s done a great job this spring. He played the slot all last year. He played outside a little bit because he started showing that he can get on the field. Now I moved him to the boundary this spring, but even this spring when Mike was practicing and some of these guys that are dinged now weren’t, I was moving him around a bunch.
“I told him going in to spring, ‘The mentality right now is to get you ready to start at all three spots.’ He’s kind of like Jalin (Marshall). He has that flexibility so that when we need to get the best three on the field, whoever that is, I can plug him where I need to and they’ll be really good at it.”
The biggest stamp of approval came from Meyer, though. When asked March 31 about what he looks for in players, he used Brown as the example of what he wants to see.
“I just talked to our team, there’s three characteristics,” Meyer said. “Competitor number one, tough number two and go-hard. It’s those three characteristics, if we find that – and obviously there is the God-given skill or we wouldn’t be talking about him – if he has those three characteristics, we’re recruiting him.
“Noah Brown is a perfect example. He lost 24, 25 pounds. He’s a competitor, he’s a tough guy. You saw that last year as a true freshman blocking. Very tough guy, and he goes hard. So we just have to say, ‘OK, he’s a little too slow.’ But he’s lost 24, 25 pounds. He’s doing a very good job because he has those three qualities.”