After committing in early December, five-star linebacker Baron Browning showed up in Columbus in January to participate in off-season activities and begin making a case to be a part of the LB rotation this fall. One of the most prized additions to the Buckeyes’ 2017 football recruiting class, the 6’2, 229-pound Kennedale, TX native is the top-ranked outside linebacker and 11th overall prospect in the country, according to the 247Sports Composite.
In choosing the Buckeyes, Browning spurned 35 other schools, including Michigan, Florida State, Alabama, Oklahoma, and more. A U.S. Army All-American, Browning accumulated nearly 150 tackles in his final two seasons at Kennedale High School after suffering a shoulder injury as a sophomore.
Browning will benefit from joining a position group loaded with experience; the current projected starters at linebacker include seniors Chris Worley and Dante Booker, and junior Jerome Baker. However, with his skill set and potential upside, a redshirt is unlikely for Browning.
An exceptional, raw athlete, Browning possesses elite-level speed, especially from the linebacker position. His strength is in the pass rush, where his athleticism is on full display. In moving to the Big Ten, Browning will need to improve his game as a run-stopper, but the potential is there for the incoming freshman to join the pantheon of Ohio State’s great linebackers.
That also just so happens to be in his plans, and a reason he selected Ohio State:
With former 5-star Raekwon McMillan off to the NFL, Urban Meyer did his best to snag the No. 1 overall outside linebacker in the 2017 class. Baron Browning is the complete package at outside linebacker and it starts with his collegiate-ready frame mixed with his elite athleticism. Browning stands at 6’2, 229 pounds, which is too lean to play right now, but that will change by spring practice.
The Texas native’s athleticism jumps off the screen right away. His speed is perfect to combat spread offenses and he is in the mold of Darron Lee, but with more natural talent. Browning is excellent at timing his blitzes off the edge, causing havoc in the backfield, and has the leaping ability to hurdle a blocker or knock down a pass at the line of scrimmage. His confidence and aggressiveness on the field stem from his high football IQ, because it shows how much he believes in his film study and his on-field awareness. He fits the walk-out linebacker role to a T at Ohio State, in the mold of Lee.
With Chris Worley and Jerome Baker manning the outside linebacker positions, it will be tough for Browning to see immediate playing time on defense; however, it should not surprise anyone to see him crack the two-deep and get playing time if one or the other gets injured — especially Worley’s spot. Browning’s speed and size will make him a missile on special teams as a freshman and he possesses all the tools to build himself into a future NFL first rounder. — Christopher Jason