Jard Work: Browning Improving On Last Year

He drew plenty of criticism from fans last season, but things have changed this year for Bryant Browning. Find out why he is performing better than he did a year ago, what the Indiana game was like for Jake Ballard, how Brian Rolle hopes to stop John Clay and what Dane Sanzenbacher remembers about last year's Wisconsin game in this week's edition of Jard Work.

A move back to his natural inside spot on the offensive line is paying dividends for Bryant Browning.

Now a junior, Browning has started all five games at right guard after spending his first year as a member of the starting lineup at right tackle. Following games when the Ohio State coaching staff names a Jim Parker offensive lineman of the week, Browning has brought home the award twice this season.

That accounts for half of the awards given to the linemen this season.

"I guess I'm just taking in the coaching well and listening to what the coaches are telling me from week to week," Browning said. "There's always something you can get better at."

Asked for specific examples of things the coaches have had him work on, Browning said, "Just little technique things like where your hand placement is at when you go to block the D-tackle or how your feet are aligned when you're going to block the linebackers or what position you get in to block a guy. Little things like that."

During fall camp, senior Jim Cordle – who has bounced around from center to guard to tackle during his OSU tenure – said he felt the 6-4, 312-pound Browning looked more comfortable at guard than he did the year before at tackle.

Browning played the second-most minutes of any lineman on the roster behind Alex Boone, but he never brought home an offensive lineman of the week award.

Senior defensive tackle Todd Denlinger, who goes up against Browning in practice on a regular basis, said he has seen the offensive guard put forth a more consistent body of work this season.

"I think he is more comfortable inside," Denlinger said. "I know that's where he started when he came in here. Last year we needed him at tackle and he had a good year but he finally moved back into his comfort zone and I think he's had an outstanding year."

Who Would You Rather Tackle? This weekend, the Buckeyes will face one of the more physical running backs in the nation in John Clay. Listed at 6-1, 248, the sophomore leads the conference in rushing at 116.4 yards per game and has bulled his way into the end zone seven times.

His frame has drawn comparisons to Chris "Beanie" Wells, who used his 6-1, 237-pound self to lead the Buckeyes in rushing the past two seasons before heading to the NFL.

"The way (Clay) runs the ball is so physical," Denlinger said. "It definitely takes a toll on the defense. It's our whole defense's job to swarm him. He has very similar qualities to Beanie. He's a very hard runner and a big back and he likes to run the ball. A lot of these backs may try to make cuts and go around somebody he likes to lower his shoulder and run over somebody."

The Buckeyes recruited Clay out of Racine (Wis.) Park and were one of his final three schools along with Iowa. In the end, he opted to stay closer to home to play his college football.

"We've known John Clay since he was, I don't know, 10th or 11th grade and tried to recruit him and had him on campus and all the rest," OSU head coach Jim Tressel said. "He stayed at home which is hard to question why a guy would do that. It's a good decision. He's at a good place that utilizes him well and we've got to tackle him."

Clay's size puts a player like starting middle linebacker Brian Rolle at a natural disadvantage. Although he leads the team in tackles with 37, he is listed at a generous 5-11, 221 pounds.

Senior captain and linebacker said he Austin Spitler does not foresee a problem.

"I would say he's going to hit him low, which is probably a smart move on his part," Spitler said of Rolle. "He's giving up a little size, but he showed last game if you watch the film he blew some fullback up. There's a lot of power in that little guy. He won't have a problem."

Cornerbacks coach Taver Johnson had a piece of advice for his position players as they prepare to try and stop Clay.

"I told them make sure they get soaking wet before we play so they can be a bit heavier," he said with a laugh.

Denlinger, who has had to tackle Wells in the past and will be charged with stopping Clay this weekend, was asked who he would rather tackle – Wells or Clay – and his answer would make a politician proud.

"I wouldn't prefer to tackle either of them, but I'd definitely like to tackle John Clay a lot this weekend," he said.

Rolle A Badger? When the Buckeyes landed Rolle out of Immokalee, Fla., they managed to hold off first the University of Florida and then Wisconsin as the Badgers continued recruiting him until signing day.

When it came time to sign for the Buckeyes, Rolle even had papers faxed to him from Wisconsin in the hopes that he would make a last-minute decision for the Badgers.

"It's not illegal," said Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema, who was in his first year in that capacity. "We knew he was committed to Ohio State, but we kept working him. I don't know how much Coach (Jim) Tressel and that staff knew that, but we weren't letting up, because I just thought he's that kind of a player that we want to stay alive on him. The things you see on film right now of Brian Rolle are why we went after him."

The Badgers have a defensive back on the roster in Aaron Henry who also hails from Immokalee but is one year older than Rolle. Bielema said the Wisconsin coaching staff actually offered Rolle before they offered Henry.

"I watched him go through drills, and he was incredible, just the way he moved his feet and the way he did things," Bielema said. "I walked up to his head coach … who's a good friend of ours, and said, hey, just tell that little linebacker over there he's got a scholarship waiting for him at Wisconsin as a linebacker, no questions asked."

Sixteen? Really? Each member of the Buckeyes will tell you that he does not pay much attention to what is said outside of the protective walls of the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. As a result, most queries to players concerning where the team stands from an outside perspective result in at least a mild surprise from players who insist they have not yet heard the news.

On Tuesday, Spitler was asked if he was surprised that the Buckeyes were being listed as 16-point favorites against the Badgers.

"Wow," he said before pausing for several seconds while the thought sank in. "Yeah it is surprising. The guys in this building know it's going to be a lot closer than 16 points. We hope it's not, though."

Relapse: At his final press conference of the week, Tressel told reporters that senior tight end Jake Ballard had missed Wednesday's practice with the flu.

It marked a relapse for Ballard, who had missed the second half of the Indiana game after getting sick in the locker room at halftime.

"I didn't think it was anything until halftime of the game, to be honest," he said Tuesday. "I thought maybe I ate something bad or had a stomachache. I couldn't perform at my best so I struggled through it. I went into halftime and still wasn't feeling well. I came back out and tried to play through it but I had to leave the game early."

He finished the game with one catch for 10 yards. He then was kept away from the team for the next two days before being allowed back onto the practice field Tuesday. The following day, Ballard was again gone.

Remembering Valai: One player who made an impact on the Buckeyes when they played Wisconsin last year is defensive back Jai Valai. It was the 5-9, 200-pound athlete who was responsible for knocking both running back Dan Herron and wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher out of the game after applying vicious hits on both.

"He plays physical and he'll come to hit you and that's his secondary," Tressel said. "If you come in his secondary, that's what secondary guys are supposed to do."

Browning said he remembered Valai's hits and said the offense will keep him in mind as it prepares for the game.

Asked what he remembered about the game, Sanzenbacher pretended to take offense.

"What are you trying to say? That I wouldn't remember it?" he said before laughing.

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