Most Important Buckeyes: No. 9
By Scott Dame
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Corey “Philly” Brown helped the 2012 Buckeyes go 12-0 in a multitude of ways. He led Ohio State in receptions, receiving yards, punt-return yards and punt-return touchdowns.
His best performances were in big games, most notably against Michigan State, Wisconsin and Michigan. He was the only Buckeye to find three different ways into the end zone this season, scoring TDs as a rusher, receiver and punt returner.
Photo by Jim Davidson
He even recorded a couple of tackles.
The junior wide receiver/punt returner from Upper Darby, Pa., was dubbed “Philly” by Jim Tressel in 2010 for the purpose of distinguishing him from Ohio State’s other Corey Brown, who is a defensive back from near Pittsburgh. For the purposes of this article, however, we’re going to call him the Buckeye offense’s most versatile player and one of the most important pieces on Urban Meyer’s chess board.
For that, Philly earned the No. 9 spot on our postseason countdown of the 20 Most Important Buckeyes for a 12-0 season.
What Made Him Important?
First, the stats.
Brown easily led the Buckeyes in receptions with 60; Devin Smith was a distant second with 30 catches. Although 60 doesn’t seem like a huge number of catches for a team leader in this age of no-huddle, pass-happy offenses, it does represent a significant increase from 2011, when Brown, Smith and Jake Stoneburner managed a paltry 14 receptions each to lead the team.
Brown also led the 2012 Buckeyes with 669 receiving yards, 51 yards better than Smith.
Again, though, Brown’s 2012 receiving yardage is more than double what the 2011 team leader (Smith) managed (294 yards).
That brings us to Brown’s performances in three of OSU’s most crucial games.
September 29 marked Ohio State’s first road trip and it was against the toughest opponent the Buckeyes had seen to date: Michigan State. Brown caught 12 of Braxton Miller’s 16 completions and netted 84 yards, as the Buckeyes held off the Spartans 17-16 for their first Big Ten win in nearly 11 months.
Photo by Jim Davidson
November 17 against Wisconsin was another outstanding showing for Brown, as he scored the first touchdown of the game, returning a punt 68 yards in the first quarter. Brown also caught a team-high four passes for 48 yards in the 21-14 overtime win over the Badgers.
It was the second punt return TD and the second Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week Award for Brown, who received his first honor after a 76-yard punt-return TD vs. Nebraska.
Brown saved his best receiving day for The Game. He caught eight passes for a team-best 95 yards and one TD against Michigan, as the Bucks completed their perfect season with a 26-21 victory.
What Would the Buckeyes Have Done Without Him?
OSU would have struggled on offense. Without their top possession receiver, defenses could have devoted more attention to stopping Ohio State’s rushing attack.
Without the balance that was afforded by the receiving threats of Brown and Smith, it would have been nearly impossible for Miller and Carlos Hyde to combine for 2,266 yards and 29 TDs on the ground.
This balance is a byproduct of the OSU offense’s growth in its first season under Meyer and, more specifically, the progress of players like Brown.
“He really has improved. The good thing is he’s not nearly what he could be yet,” Meyer said after the Michigan State game.
Without Brown, we would have seen more of Evan Spencer, Chris Fields and Michael Thomas, players who have flashed their share of talent, but who have yet to demonstrate the consistency of Brown.
Without that steady threat, defenses would have not only ganged up against the OSU run, but they could have devoted more attention to Smith. This would have had a negative impact on Smith’s stellar 20.6 yards-per-catch average.
How Does it Compare to Our Preseason Expectations?
Brown was rated No. 14 in our preseason rankings.
In my opinion, OSU would have lost at least two games without him, so I picked him seventh in our postseason voting. I think he’s a little underrated at No. 9, but it’s a pretty good accomplishment to be one of the 10 most important players on an undefeated football team.
Brown’s improvement is accurately reflected by a five-spot rise in our postseason rankings. Miller and Brown have another offseason to digest Meyer’s offense, so look for even greater accomplishments from Brown during his senior campaign.
Most Important Countdown:
No. 10 Jack Mewhort
No. 11 Devin Smith
No. 12 Corey Linsley
No. 13 Nathan Williams
No. 14 Christian Bryant
No. 15 Etienne Sabino
No. 16 Andrew Norwell
No. 17 Travis Howard
No. 18 C.J. Barnett
No. 19 Garrett Goebel
No. 20 Kenny Guiton