Buckeyes ‘Calling On’ Devin Brown’s Confidence Entering Cotton Bowl Against No. 9 Missouri

The quarterback standard at Ohio State has a high bar.

When Kyle McCord decided to enter the transfer portal after the Buckeyes went 11-1 in the regular season and lost to Michigan, it left Ohio State with a vacancy under center.

The No. 7 Buckeyes are a couple weeks away from their Cotton Bowl matchup against No. 9 Missouri, and it appears redshirt freshman Devin Brown will earn his first start at quarterback against the Tigers.

Whether it’s Brown, freshman Lincoln Kienholz or someone else, wide receiver Emeka Egbuka and the Buckeyes wideouts are confident they’ll see strong quarterback play in the Cotton Bowl.

“I trust in the coaching staff that they’re always going to provide good quarterback play,” Egbuka said. “I mean, it’s Ohio State. People can say what they want about Kyle. We went 11-1. We had a great season. Unfortunately, we lost to the team up north. But you can’t really discredit the things that he did. We had a Biletnikoff winner. You can’t just have that with a terrible quarterback, you know? So there’s not too much to be said about the quarterback play. I think it’s always going to be top tier at Ohio State.”

Brown will fill McCord’s void after battling it out with him throughout the spring and preseason to determine the Buckeyes’ starting signal caller.

McCord ultimately won the quarterback competition, but that didn’t shake Brown’s confidence in himself.

And in the days and weeks leading up to the Cotton Bowl, the Buckeyes are seeing signs of strength from Brown.

“We’re calling on him to run the offense and he’s the leader that we got to listen to, and I feel like the couple practices we’ve had, he’s kind of shown that he has the qualities to be a good leader,” offensive guard Donovan Jackson said. “I’m looking forward to seeing where he goes from here, seeing the growth that he has so I’m looking forward to it.”

Brown offers a different skill set than McCord.

Standing 6-foot-3 and 213 pounds, Brown is two pounds lighter than his predecessor. He’s appeared in seven games, throwing for 36 yards and a touchdown.

But where Brown’s differences are most evident are in his legs, and the Buckeyes wide receivers see it, too.

“I’m not bashing Kyle but something that Devin has that he doesn’t is a little bit more mobility,” Egbuka said. “We always joked with Kyle about stuff like that. But Devin really has a knack for extending the play after it’s broken down so that’s something that’s ultra valuable, especially when you’re playing in matchup games because those big plays often come from broken down plays. It’s not something you’ve scripted. It’s just the reaction of the players that are around you so the ability to extend the play is a trait that’s really, it can help a quarterback a lot.”

Ohio State tried for more quarterback mobility under C.J. Stroud and McCord, and both relied on their arms more than their legs to get the job done. But Brown has the dynamic tools to be a threat on the ground.

Not only is he a dual-threat quarterback, but Brown’s arm has drawn rave reviews, which has led to increased confidence.

“I think he’s a great passer,” Egbuka said. “He’s a great improviser, a great field general. He’s someone who provides the offense with a lot of energy, which is huge for that position. And he has a cannon too, so those deep balls on the field he can really launch those as well.”

Perhaps Brown’s confidence stems from a much earlier point in time in his life. To his credit, he did choose to make the switch to jersey No. 33 in spring practice as a tribute to Sammy Baugh, the first quarterback inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963.

When Brown stepped onto campus at Ohio State as an early enrollee in January 2022, he demonstrated an immediate swagger and aura about himself. The signal-caller from Gilbert, Arizona, will get a chance to embrace the spotlight and push his tape onto the forefront of head coach Ryan Day and Ohio State’s minds going into 2024.

“He’s a playmaker. He’s a confident guy,” Johnson said. “He’s a dude who improvises. He’s a dude who goes in, mixes throws, is very confident and he’s a vocal leader. So he’s seeing that and having an opportunity for him to flash that a little more. You just, you see the confidence exuding even more.”

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