Ohio State’s Corey “Philly” Brown remembers being introduced to new coach Urban Meyer’s spread attack last spring and feeling as if the playbook were written in some form of hieroglyphics.
But 12 months later, the senior receiver has a sure handle on the offense — and so does the rest of the unit.
“You can’t play the game fast when you don’t know what you’re doing or why you’re doing it,” he said after Thursday’s practice. “Now that we’ve had this year under us, we know everything — the entire concepts. We feel more comfortable, and we’re playing fast.”
The Buckeye coaches have been wanting Brown to pick up the pace in his play. He tied for the sixth-highest reception total in OSU history last season with 60, equaling the most since Michael Jenkins pulled down 61 in the national championship 2002 season. But he converted that monstrous tally into a paltry three touchdowns.
He played a bit out of position as a slot receiver. But he had game-changing punt returns for touchdowns against Nebraska and Wisconsin, which means he probably should have been more of a break-away threat after catching the ball over the middle.
“He left a lot of yards on the field — he’ll tell you that,” OSU receivers coach Zach Smith said.
Brown gained 669 yards, just 51 more than teammate Devin Smith produced on 30 fewer catches.
“We’ve had lots of players in our (coaching) careers play that position and put up astronomical numbers,” Zach Smith said. “It’s running after the catch. You’re not catching 60-yard passes. You’re catching 10-yard passes and turning them into 80-yard completions. That’s where he’s got to improve.
“You saw it at times, and it was no more evident than on punt returns. You watch him against Nebraska and Wisconsin, and he’s an athlete in space. It’s no different catching the ball over the middle. You catch it over the middle — now go be a punt returner. That’s been our selling point to him.”
Brown doesn’t need any more convincing. The coaches already planned on playing him more as a traditional wideout this season, which will mean a heavy dose of vertical routes. And he said he has lofty individual goals, although he declined to say what they were.
“Last year, I didn’t have any goals because I didn’t know what I was getting into,” he said. “Obviously, team goals trump everything, but everyone needs a goal to reach greatness. Putting together the goals I have will make me work harder.”
Recruiting news: The Buckeyes have five verbal commitments in the 2014 class after landing three-star defensive lineman Dylan Thompson of Lombard, Ill., last week.
The 6-foot-5, 270-pound junior is rated the nation’s No. 17 strong-side defensive end by 247Sports.com. He also had scholarship offers from Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Vanderbilt, Clemson, Illinois, Iowa, Purdue, Iowa State and Missouri.
Thompson has been part of two state title teams at Montini Catholic.
OSU’s other recruits for ’14 have all earned four-star ratings (out of five): cornerback Damon Webb of Detroit, receiver Parris Campbell of Akron, offensive guard Marcelys Jones of Cleveland and offensive tackle Kyle Trout of Lancaster, Ohio.
Student Day: OSU will hold its Student Appreciation Day at practice at 11 a.m. Saturday in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. The event drew a large crowd last year, and Meyer wants to make it an annual tradition. Students with an ID, along with their parents and siblings, are welcome and can meet the coaches and players afterward.
Top individual reception seasons
Last 10 years
No. Player Yr.
60 Corey “Philly” Brown 2012
60 DeVier Posey 2009
59 Ted Ginn Jr. 2006
55 Dane Sanzenbacher 2010
55 Brian Robiskie 2007
55 Santonio Holmes 2004
55 Michael Jenkins 2003
53 Posey 2010
53 Holmes 2005
52 Brian Hartline 2007
51 Anthony Gonzalez 2006
51 Ginn 2005