Cornerback Cameron Brown left an impression on coaches when he filled in for Damon Arnette during the second half of Ohio State’s win over Michigan State on Oct. 5.
“It's never easy to just come into the game from the bench and play as many snaps as he did,” said Jeff Hafley, the Buckeyes’ defensive co-coordinator and secondary coach.
According to an unofficial tally from Pro Football Focus, Brown lined up for 35 snaps against the Spartans in place of Arnette, who was sidelined by an undisclosed injury, and allowed one completion, a 7-yard catch by receiver Cody White. Brown also had a tackle for loss.
If further limitations or injuries involving Buckeyes cornerbacks arise, Brown might be required to make another extended cameo.
His development has made the sophomore a valuable reserve.
Hafley said Brown has been among the team’s most improved defensive backs since he joined the coaching staff in January.
“I think Cam would tell you that maybe six or seven months ago, he wasn't ready for this,” coach Ryan Day said. “But he's matured into a really good young man who's taking care of all of his business off the field, in the classroom, and now on the field.”
Part of Brown’s progress could be owed to switching positions.
When he arrived at Ohio State last year as a four-star prospect from Christian Brothers College High School in St. Louis, he primarily played receiver.
It took time to adjust, and he also missed most of last season with a leg injury.
“He's always been a great athlete,” safety Jordan Fuller said. “A freak, basically. Super fast. But he was kind of raw when he came in. His work ethic and focus has really propelled him into a great position right now. If he keeps going, he'll be the next man you guys are talking about.”
With expected attrition in the secondary following this season, Brown could see an even larger role next fall. Arnette is in his final season of eligibility, and Jeff Okudah, the team’s other starting cornerback, is eligible to enter the NFL draft, where some observers project him as a first-round pick.
That would leave only five returning scholarship cornerbacks, including Brown, who might see the highest number of snaps among them.
McCall still iffy
Reserve running back Demario McCall, who also returns kickoffs and punts, did not play against Michigan State because of an issue that arose during pregame warmups.
Day said Monday that he hoped McCall might be available when the Buckeyes play at Northwestern on Friday.
Midway through the season, Day said McCall has battled nagging injuries. A fourth-year junior, McCall has 10 carries for 37 yards, with most of his playing time coming on returns.
Asked to assess McCall’s role, Day said, “He's had some different return opportunities, and he's going to keep getting opportunities, and he has to make the best of those opportunities.”