COLUMBUS – When Ohio State’s Corey Brown was nominated last summer for the Biletnikoff Award, given to college football’s top receiver, it seemed like a stretch.
After all, Brown caught 14 passes all of last season. And Fred Biletnikoff, the Oakland Raiders legend whose name is on the award, once caught 13 passes in a game when he played at Florida State.
That nomination is looking better since Brown has established himself as one of Ohio State’s best receivers this season by catching 32 passes in OSU’s first five games.
No one in the Big Ten has caught more passes than Brown, who came into this season with 22 career receptions.
But Ohio State coach Urban Meyer still wants Brown to stretch, as in stretching opposing defenses by turning more of his catches into big plays.
Meyer talks about attacking vertically and horizontally in the passing game.
Devin Smith, who has become OSU’s deep receiving threat, is the primary target in the vertical attack, while Brown is more of the horizontal threat.
Brown’s 12 catches for 84 yards in a 17-6 win over Michigan State last week were in line with his season average of 9.9 yards per catch. Smith has averaged 18.5 yards per catch on his 19 receptions.
It’s no surprise Meyer is pushing Brown to do even more.
“He really has improved. The good thing is he’s not nearly what he could be yet,” Meyer said earlier this week. “He's allowed to make a guy miss once in a while and get more than eight yards.”
On his weekly radio show on Thursday, Meyer said, “We need some explosiveness in this offense. We need about four more (guys) who can create those matchups where it’s not just an 8-yard gain.
“The one guy who is the threat, that you hold your breath when he gets in open space is No. 5 (Braxton Miller). We’re waiting to develop these other guys and it needs to start happening quickly or you’re going to have a lot of 17-16 games.”
Brown said the arrival of Meyer brought a smile to the face of every Ohio State receiver.
“When we first heard Coach Meyer was being hired all the receivers were happy, obviously, because we knew he runs a spread offense. We knew there was going to be room for all of us to get some playing time.
“At the time I thought I was one of the many receivers in we had in that (receivers) room who would have good seasons. I never thought I would have 32 catches by now.”
Brown has carried the ball five times as a runner in addition to his pass catching. With Jordan Hall out for Saturday night’s game against Nebraska, he could be an even bigger part of Ohio State’s offense.
“I’m glad Coach Herman (offensive coordinator Tom Herman) has as much confidence in me as he does to call as many plays as he did Saturday,” Brown said. “Coach Herman tries to come up with different new ways to utilize me every week. Hopefully he’s in his office now trying to think of something new.”
Saturday night’s 8 p.m. kickoff suits Brown.
“Twelve o’clock game, everybody’s tired, everybody’s not ‘pre-gaming,’ so at 8 o’clock people have time to ‘pregame’ and do whatever they do to get ready for the game. It’s at night, it’s just the look of the stadium, the whole atmosphere just changes around this place.”