Ohio State's Corey Brown, left, turns upfield against Central Florida's Jordan Ozerities during the second quarter of last Saturday's game.
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COLUMBUS -- Corey Brown said he prefers to be called by his given name, which is funny because the Ohio State receiver sure doesn't seem to mind his ever-present handle.
Brown met with reporters this week wearing a gray shirt with "Philly" emblazoned in red letters across the front, then shared a photo of it with the 7,000-plus supporters who follow him at "phillybrown10" on Twitter.
"Every other [handle] was taken," Brown clarified of his Twitter account. "I had to. It wasn't my decision, it was Twitter's."
This fall, though, Brown is making sure people learn his name.
After two underwhelming seasons, the junior from suburban Philadelphia has transformed his outlook and game.
What can Brown do for OSU? First-year coach Urban Meyer hopes a little bit of everything, calling the 6-foot, 186-pound former running back the team's most productive offensive player outside of quarterback Braxton Miller. He has caught 13 passes for 135 yards and a touchdown -- one reception shy of the team-high total from last season -- and made his case for a hybrid role last week with two carries for 33 yards.
Ohio State's Corey Brown.
Brown will be an option Saturday against California to help a depleted backfield lessen the running burden on Miller. (Freshman Bri'onte Dunn and sophomore Rod Smith are listed as the top tailbacks, with projected starter Jordan Hall expected to return in a limited role after missing the last 10 weeks with a torn tendon in his foot.)
"He's locked in and focused," said running backs coach Stan Drayton, who coached the receivers last season. "He's grown up a lot."
Brown said his emergence required a "long look in the mirror" over the offseason.
His heart was not always fully in it the last two years. He left for Ohio State as Corey Brown the running back and arrived as Philly Brown the receiver. Brown reluctantly accepted the nickname, bestowed by former coach Jim Tressel to differentiate the newcomer from cornerback Corey "Pittsburgh" Brown. The position switch was more difficult.
Brown, a two-time all-state tailback who rushed for more than 3,000 yards at Upper Darby, Pa., had never played split wide.
"When I came here, they had me in the receiver room," Brown said. "I was sad, I'll be honest. I thought I was going to be a corner or a running back, but I realized I was too skinny."
His approach: "Suck it up and not be a baby about it."
Brown caught only 22 passes for 310 yards over his first two seasons. But under the guidance of veterans Dane Sanzenbacher, a Central Catholic graduate now with the Chicago Bears, and DeVier Posey, he steadily came to appreciate the position.
When Meyer arrived with his spread offense, Brown saw his career at a crossroads.
"Obviously, my first two seasons here weren't really good," said Brown, a criminology major. "You have to take a look in the mirror, and say, 'If this is what I want to do the rest of my life, I have to get going.'"
Meyer said Brown is unrecognizable from the player he inherited over the winter.
"This summer when he got a 3.8, 3.9 GPA, the corner was officially turned," he said. "His professionalism about academics, about the weight room, about the training, that's when it all changed. He didn't have that. He was a guy who liked to catch passes."
Now, Brown is a standout by any name -- or position.
"It's been good. I'm just out there trying not to mess up, basically," he said, laughing. "I'm just out here doing my best."
WILLIAMS, KLEIN BACK: Meyer expects two former senior defensive starters to return Saturday.
Defensive end Nathan Williams, who continues to recover from microfracture knee surgery, practiced this week after missing the Central Florida game, while linebacker Storm Klein is returning from a two-game suspension. Klein was booted from the team after his July arrest for misdemeanor domestic violence and assault, then reinstated when the charges were reduced to disorderly conduct.
"He's worked hard, and he's handling this with humility, which I expected he would," Meyer said.
Contact David Briggs: at firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6084 or on Twitter @DBriggsBlade.
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