SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The debates at Ohio State have finally died down for Baron Browning.
There’s no more worrying about whether the junior feels more comfortable as a middle linebacker or on the outside. The speculation that he could thrive from moving to defensive end has subsided. The questions about when Browning might finally have a breakout moment are long gone.
All that matters now for the Buckeyes is that Browning is on the field. The rest of those details truly don’t matter as much since the versatility that opened the door for all of those conversations is now what’s helping Ohio State realize that the most important thing is simply using his athleticism in any way it can think of heading into the Fiesta Bowl.
Certainly it’s helping in the box against the rush. If need be Browning’s sharp enough to be an asset against the pass when the time comes. And now that he appears to be back to full strength, he’s also again wrecking opponents as a blitzing option off the edge — which honestly might be his favorite and one of the most useful weapons the Buckeyes have heading into the Fiesta Bowl against Clemson.
“Absolutely [love blitzing],” Browning said recently with a laugh. “Who wouldn’t, you know? But at the end of the day, anything I can do to help contribute defensively and to help the team win, I’m going to do it — no questions asked.
“I mean, it’s not that serious [worrying about stats] or anything. I’m just glad I can contribute and help the team win. As long as one of my brothers are out there making plays too, I’m happy and proud of this defense. I’m so proud of the defense on this team and the way we’ve been locked in and kept fighting all season.”
Browning has had to work through a setback or two this season, most notably a core-muscle injury that slowed him down in the middle stretch of the year and sidelined him out for almost three full games. But the dynamic linebacker still heads into the College Football Playoff with 9 tackles for loss and 4 sacks this season, and there’s also no doubt that the Buckeyes will likely need him to add to those numbers against a high-powered Clemson offense.
How can Baron Browning help Ohio State swing the outcome against Clemson? What signs are there that the junior linebacker is back to full strength in time for the Fiesta Bowl? Where can the Buckeyes use him to find edges in the College Football Playoff? Former Ohio State linebacker Zach Boren was back in the film lab at Lettermen Row breaking it down and answering those questions in the latest episode of BuckIQ.
Roll the tape!
Lettermen Row senior writer Austin Ward contributed the editorial content for this post.