Two up-and-coming linebackers caught Urban Meyer’s eye early in spring practice. For now, Ohio State fans will have to take the coach’s word for it.
Sophomore Malik Harrison and freshman Baron Browning, a five-star early enrollee from the 2017 recruiting class, have suffered shoulder injuries in the past two weeks that will require surgery. Neither will be available for the spring game April 15 at Ohio Stadium.
“They’re standing next to each other” on the practice field as drills ensued Tuesday, Meyer said.
The fall promises to be a different story, though, with both projected as being at least backups to starters.
“They’re both going to play; very athletic guys,” Meyer said.
Browning, from Kennedale, Texas, was hurt 10 days ago. He had gone through the team’s offseason workout program along with eight other early enrollees from the 2017 class, as well as junior-college transfer cornerback Kendall Sheffield.
Harrison, from Walnut Ridge, played on special teams last year for the Buckeyes and saw some mop-up duty with the defense. He made a splash in the winter when he was featured on one of the team’s Twitter-distributed videos having the most spectacular move in a basketball dunk contest with several teammates.
“Malik was having a tremendous (spring),” Meyer said. “He’s going to compete for a starting spot.”
A numbers game
The Buckeyes set a school record with the nine early enrollees from the 2017 recruiting class. But Meyer said he had three of them — offensive lineman Josh Myers, cornerback Marcus Williamson and athlete Brendon White — on standby at one point last year in regard to whether they would be able to go on scholarship right away when they entered school in January.
“The only way you’re allowed to come in January is if someone graduates,” Meyer said. “It was so early and we were doing so well in recruiting, I saw a numbers crunch. … I didn’t want to have that conversation in December. They’re all good people (meaning the players’ families). I know them very well.”
He said he and his staff laid out the options, which included delaying enrollment until summer with the rest of the class or the player paying his own way for spring semester.
Meyer said all three of the families understood the situation, and that all three insisted on their sons enrolling early.
“The good thing is two (scholarships) freed up and only one had to” pay for the semester, Meyer said. He did not elaborate on which player it was.