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Healthy Baron Browning can make tough Buckeyes defense even better

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Ohio State linebacker Baron Browning is still working to get back to full strength for the Buckeyes. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Question Of The Day

Healthy Baron Browning can make tough Buckeyes defense even better

The speculation, debate and conversations about Ohio State never end, and Lettermen Row is always ready to dive into the discussions. All week long, senior writer Austin Ward will field topics about the Buckeyes submitted by readers and break down anything that’s on the minds of the Best Damn Fans in the Land. Have a question that needs to be tackled, like the one today about the Ohio State and Baron Browning? Send it in right here — and check back daily for the answers.

Baron Browning getting in extra pregame work on his pass-rushing technique was one of the most-watched drills at the Horseshoe on Saturday morning. And it didn’t take long into the game before Ohio State was lining him up on the edge and giving him a chance to show how he could find yet another way to help the Buckeyes.

But that show before kickoff and the glimpse shortly after it was just about it for the junior’s workload against Maryland. He didn’t appear in the box score, and there was really no reason for Ohio State to push it if there is any lingering discomfort for the athletic linebacker after suffering a core-muscle strain last month against Michigan State.

Browning has only been ruled out officially of one game since then, staying at home while the Buckeyes were on the road destroying Northwestern. But he’s only been credited with one tackle over the last two games, and clearly Ohio State was playing it safe with him against the completely overmatched Terrapins. At this point, there has been no indication that Browning picked up an additional injury, and considering both the level of competition and the way Maryland was focusing on the rushing attack offensively, it’s not a surprise that Tuf Borland played so extensively until the backups took over at halftime.

Tuf Borland-Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State football

With Baron Browning limited, Ohio State linebacker Tuf Borland was solid against Maryland. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

The fact that Ohio State is able to continue to rotate linebackers without missing a beat is still a bit shocking considering where that unit was a year ago — and the fact that the personnel is exactly the same. Browning has been one of the best playmakers on the unit when healthy, but even when he’s been at full speed, the Buckeyes haven’t hesitated to substitute freely, keep guys fresh and get creative with the packages. Perhaps the most intriguing development for Browning would be if he continues to get looks as a stand-up threat as a pass-rusher, especially on the off chance that Chase Young misses more than one more game or Jonathon Cooper continues to battle his high-ankle sprain.

Browning wasn’t listed as either unavailable or a game-time decision last week, and he certainly looked sharp during the warmups. But game speed is always a little different, and if he felt any tweaks at all, the Buckeyes did the right thing by playing it safe. Ohio State doesn’t disclose any injury information publicly, but it’s entirely possible that the coaching staff wanted to let him go through the normal pregame routine and get a little taste of the action to help keep any rust from gathering ahead of the huge games coming against Penn State and Michigan.

Of course, it also helps that Borland was delivering one of his better performances with the Buckeyes, setting the pace with five tackles and a sack at his inside linebacker spot and removing any pressure to play Browning. Given the way the Texas native was rolling before the injury, though, adding him back into the lineup can only boost a defense that already ranks as the best unit in the country.

All eyes will be on Baron Browning again over the coming days and in the buildup to the game on Saturday. But it’s next week against Penn State when he would potentially make a real difference.

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Austin Ward

Austin Ward is Lettermen Row's senior writer covering Ohio State football and basketball. The award-winning journalist has covered the Buckeyes since 2012, spending five of those seasons working for ESPN after previous stints at the Casper Star-Tribune and Knoxville News Sentinel.