When freshman quarterback Devin Brown walked into the hall for first spring practice Tuesday, there was something new about him.
Despite ongoing quarterback competition looming throughout the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, Brown donned a black training jersey denoting Buckeye quarterbacks. Instead of the familiar No. 15 he wore last season, Brown switched to No. 33, something he predicted in a Feb. 25 tweetand said he wore the latter number up until his sophomore year in high school.
Brown said he reached out to head coach Ryan Day about the number change, and said No. 33 honors Pro Football Hall of Famer Sammy Baugh.
“He was the first quarterback inducted into the Hall of Fame with the Washington Football Team in 1963, so he’s a legend,” Brown said. “That’s the original quarterback number in my mind, so I wanted to wear off the original quarterback number.”
Ohio State didn’t see Brown play too much after his freshman year in the program.
Like former quarterback CJ Stroud, Brown will compete in the Buckeyes’ latest quarterback contest after failing to throw a pass in his collegiate career. Brown appeared in two games in his debut season last fall and had a rushing yard in his lone carry.
Brown said he’s “no Justin Fields” but believes he’s “between” Fields and former quarterback Stroud in terms of his game. The 6-foot-3, 213-pound Brown described himself as someone who can play in an impactful way.
“I’m an athletic quarterback,” Brown said. “I feel like I can play with my feet, I can miss guys, but I also have the arm strength to make pretty much any shot on the field. And I believe that with all my heart. There isn’t a throw on the field that I can’t make.”
Brown, a four-star recruit in the Class of 2022, switched commitments from USC to Ohio State in December 2021. He spent the final season of his high school career at Utah’s Corner Canyon High School under the tutelage of former Buckeyes quarterback Joe Germaine, rushing for 8,000 yards and 85 touchdowns on the prep level that originally started at Queen Creek High School in Arizona .
Listed as a pro quarterback according to several recruiting sites, Brown at times displayed his mobility during practice. He said he’s made adjustments to his throwing style that reflect changes to both his lower body and arm.
“I’ve mechanically changed a few things this offseason with Coach Day, Coach Fitch and Coach Dennis,” Brown said. “I changed a few things with my feet, getting the ball up, having a quick release, and I think those things really helped me, even increasing my arm strength.”
Discussing mechanical changes, jersey number changes and a host of other things he experienced in a year at Ohio State, Day said Brown was comfortable with the uncomfortable.
“He has never shied away from competition and has never shied away from clinging,” Day said.
Brown can draw inspiration from previous sophomores like Fields and Stroud who went through quarterback competition and emerged as starters.
Fields transferred to Ohio State after the 2018 season and earned the Buckeyes’ starting position as a sophomore in 2019, and Stroud also received the starting nod as a sophomore in 2021.
“We’re going back and even looking at Braxton [Miller] and JT [Barrett] and Dwayne [Haskins], all these guys,” Brown said. “You look back and you’re like, ‘All these guys were just like us. They’re in the same position as us.” It didn’t matter where they were on the depth map. We’re the best quarterback room in the country and anyone can play.”
Brown tried to make an impression during his freshman season at Ohio State, which began in January 2022 as an early enroller.
Behind Stroud and sophomore contender Kyle McCord as backup in quarterbacks coach Corey Dennis’ room, Brown took on an apprentice role while he developed as a college signal caller and showed his new teammates who he is.
“Devin is amazing,” Dennis said on February 1. “He’s an athletic boy with a great personality. Guys are attracted to him. But it’s going to be fun to see when those guys get more reps, so we’re looking forward to going into spring when we see guys being able to do a lot of reps.”
One quarterback contest is enough to put pressure on any quarterback, and in Brown’s case, he’s up against his friend and competitor McCord, who has an extra year of Ohio State experience.
But Brown knows what he’s getting into. He said facing McCord and becoming the Buckeyes’ next quarterback “gives me confidence,” and he’s ready to jump on the opportunity.
“There’s really nothing better than a quarterback at Ohio State,” Brown said. “It’s a top job. I mean, you’re the head of college football if you’re the Ohio State quarterback, so I really need to chime in. And my attitude is that I want to do whatever it takes to adopt that.