COLUMBUS — Noah Brown has had more surgeries than catches in his career at Ohio State, but has earned the respect of his teammates and coaches, who predict he could be OSU’s No. 1 receiver this season.
Urban Meyer thinks the sophomore wide receiver can have an All-Big Ten type season.
Running back Curtis Samuel, calls him “a big-time player.” Assistant coach Kerry Coombs upped the ante even more and called him “a phenomenal player.”
All this for a player with one career catch who didn’t play at all last season after suffering a broken leg in practice 12 days before Ohio State’s season opener.
Ohio State’s players were devastated when Brown broke his tibia and fibula when he landed awkwardly last August.
What they’d seen in practice was impressive. They knew they’d just lost a valuable asset.
Brown, who had two surgeries to repair his broken leg, was one of the great “What-if’s?” of the 2015 season for OSU.
If he had been healthy, the Buckeyes’ passing game might not have been forced to be so reliant on Michael Thomas working his magic. If he’d been able to play, OSU might have gotten back to the College Football Playoff.
“He was right there with Mike. He for sure would have been a starter last year,” Meyer said at the Big Ten media days. “I’m hoping he has an All-Big Ten year for us. My expectations are really good. That was a tough injury.”
Brown says he doesn’t think about what could have been. He’s focused on this season.
“What could have been is what I feel like it’s going to be this year,” he said. “I’m hungry, I can’t wait to get back out there. I’m excited.
“Every game that I wasn’t able to be out there ate away at me. Football is what I know, what I love. Having that taken away from me hurt.”
As a 240-pound freshman, Brown played his way into the receivers rotation with his blocking ability.
Since then, he has dropped 20 pounds and made himself into probably the most complete receiver Ohio State has on its roster.
“My best attribute is probably my route running and my hands. But I can also stretch the field,” he said. “I think I can do a little bit of everything.”
Quarterback J.T. Barrett said, “Noah has like suction cups on his hands. You can throw it anywhere around him. Throw it around Noah and he will be able to get it.”
One thing Brown hasn’t grabbed hold of and held tightly, though, is all the preseason praise coming his way.
“In my mind that’s all hype. I don’t really pay attention. I try to go out and do what I can do. I’m looking forward this year to showing people what I can do so it’s not ‘Noah could have done this. Noah could have done that,’ ” he said.
A year later than expected, what Brown can do will be a very important part of Ohio State’s season.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_