COLUMBUS — Cameron Brown’s transition at Ohio State isn’t complete yet.
Brown arrived at Ohio State as a low four-star athlete with a wide receiver tag on his recruiting profile, but with the capability of playing defense. He had a higher recruiting ranking than Buckeyes superstar Chris Olave, but Brown had plenty to improve on before catching passes or making an impact in games, offensively or defensively.
Now, he’s knocking passes down in Big Ten games and working toward proving he has NFL potential at cornerback.
“It’s been great,” Brown said. “I’ve come a long way since being a receiver in high school to becoming a corner at one of the best schools in America.”
But the transition is far from complete.
Brown played in five games as a true freshman in 2018 before an injury shut him down for the season. But last year, Brown became the first cornerback off the bench for the Buckeyes when Jeff Okudah or Damon Arnette needed a break. He played in all 14 games, had 14 tackles, two tackles for loss and a pass breakup — off the bench, filling in for two first-round picks.
That experience is invaluable in his evolution. Of course, it came with growing pains, but learning from the pair of first-round picks couldn’t have hurt.
“You have to be more detailed, to be locked in all the time,” Brown said. “As they’ve told me: ‘If you get beat, you get beat. That comes with the game, that comes with the position. The key is to come back, recover, lock in, play the next play.’”
He was able to do that through the season. And he’ll certainly need to do that this season, as he steps into a much larger role than he had last year. Of course, the Buckeyes will have future first-round NFL draft pick Shaun Wade to lean on. Wade will likely be tasked with covering the No. 1 receiver for every team Ohio State faces. From there, Brown and fellow third-year cornerback Sevyn Banks will have to step into the spotlight.
If Brown and Banks can be what the Buckeyes want them to be, new Ohio State defensive coordinator and secondary coach Kerry Coombs could go back to what he did a few years ago and employ a three-man rotation at cornerback, giving Brown equal opportunities to cover the best receivers in the Big Ten.
“We’re going to be fast,” Coombs said earlier this offseason. “We’re going to be able to cover the field, we’re going to be able to cover the receivers, we’re going to be active in the game, so I’m excited about the full range.”
Wade is a long cornerback who thrived in the slot. Banks has put muscle on to become a bigger body on the outside. And Brown is the former wide receiver with great ball skills and an ability to cover elite wide receivers. Together, they’ll form a dangerous trio of cornerbacks that quarterbacks shouldn’t want to throw into.
Brown has a chance to show his development in the secondary is finally complete, ready for huge moments on a top-ranked defense and ready for a potential draft pick when he decides to leave Ohio State for the NFL.
“We’re in great shape,” Brown said. “I think we’ll be real good. … We’ve got guys who have come in who can do great jobs. We just haven’t really shown it because those three were so great. But we’ve got young guys who are ready to play.”
Every starting cornerback at Ohio State since 2013 has been drafted. Cameron Brown could be next.