One month ago, Ohio State was preparing for its playoff matchup with No. 1 Georgia. The Buckeyes were all getting locked in on the game plan, including true freshman quarterback Devin Brown.
Brown wasn’t expected to play, especially as the third-string quarterback, but while the depth chart may keep you back, it doesn’t have to hold you back.
Devin Brown prepared the same way as everybody else who was going to be counted on, and when asked in the days leading up to the game if he would be able to handle the job as the Buckeyes’ starter, he was confident in his answer.
“I believe I could,” he said at the time.
Of course, he didn’t end up being needed. Starting quarterback CJ Stroud did more than enough to get the Buckeyes a victory, but Ohio State fell short and their season ended.
Stroud is now off to the NFL where he will be a Top 10 selection, and the Buckeyes are back to square one in their search for a new starting quarterback.
Though, to be fair, “square one” is a relative term. Ohio State will have two former 5-star quarterbacks competing to replace Stroud, as Brown and Kyle McCord were two of the most-coveted quarterback recruits in their respective recruiting classes.
Brown was a top five quarterback prospect in the 2022 recruiting cycle by all four major recruiting services. As a senior at Corner Canyon High School in Draper, Utah, he threw for 4,881 yards and 57 touchdowns while rushing for 430 yards and eight more touchdowns.
Ohio State fans have yet to see any of that kind of production or ability from Brown just yet — he only played in two games this past season and never attempted a pass. But they’ll get a much better look at him moving forward as he competes to be the Buckeyes’ starter in 2023.
What will they see?
“I feel like I’m able to make plays with my feet when stuff goes wrong,” Brown said last month. “And I feel like I know the offense pretty well. I feel like I definitely still need to keep learning, I wouldn’t say I know it overly, but I feel like I have a good ability to see things when crap breaks down and be able to just make something happen.”
It has been said about Ryan Day’s offense that a quarterback needs a full year in it to grasp it completely. Brown agrees with that sentiment, but the grasping and understanding never truly end, they just get better with time and experience.
The more time and experience that Brown received in practice this past season built up his confidence, but also proved to himself that he could have stepped in as the starter had it come to that.
“I feel like I could have done it — definitely not the first week,” he admitted through a smile. “I was a little up and down the first week. There was so much new stuff going on. Never seen a game before, like that. So it’s pretty crazy. But I’d say maybe fourth or fifth game of the season.”
For a true freshman quarterback, there is growth going on when they don’t even realize it at times. Everything is new, but over time the newness wears off and things become more familiar
“My body has changed,” Brown said of his added 30 pounds since his arrival. “I’ve gotten a little bigger, gotten a little stronger, faster, all that. But I feel like I’ve been able to grow into a leader a little bit more. I feel like guys on the team have gained more trust in me just seeing me in practice and are able to feel me a little bit at practice. I feel like my energy has been better, because it’s hard coming in as a freshman. This is CJ Stroud’s team and you’re trying to still win over a locker room, you know? I feel like that’s where I’ve probably grown the most, being able to get guys rallied around me.”
Brown is about six weeks away from his second spring camp as a Buckeye. Last year, he was brand new. The sure steps were few and far between. This spring, however, Brown knows what he’s doing, and he’s expecting a much more productive March and April.
“Oh, it’ll be completely different,” he said. “I feel like seeing the defense is an even bigger thing. I mean, offense is offense at the end of the day, the concepts are the concepts, but being able to see what’s going on on the other side of the ball is something that really makes someone special.”
Brown was not in a position to contend for a starting spot as a true freshman, and nobody was asking him to. But now, the Buckeyes need somebody to step up. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime, and somebody is going to end up leading this team.
“That’s all I can ask for, to say I have the opportunity to compete for the starting job at Ohio State,” he said. “It’s pretty spectacular. I mean, I can’t ask for anything more. I’m just ready to go out and help my team.”