Brown looks to prove himself as Buckeyes QB in Cotton Bowl

Published 12:25 am Wednesday, December 27, 2023

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Devin Brown can thank the transfer portal for his first career start at quarterback for Ohio State, coming up against Missouri in the Cotton Bowl.

Brown, the backup this season, was named the starter more or less by attrition when Kyle McCord decided to transfer. Now Brown has a chance to show coach Ryan Day that it should have been him all along.

McCord, the third-year player who beat Brown in a tight preseason competition for the starting job, entered the portal early this month while still being trashed on social media as a scapegoat for Ohio State’s loss to Michigan. McCord announced on Dec. 17 he had signed with Syracuse.

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That means Brown will get an early audition to be the 2024 starter when the No. 7 Buckeyes (11-1) face No. 9 Missouri (10-2) in the Cotton Bowl on Friday night.

“I mean, it’s going to be a coming out party, and it’s a good opportunity for me to show what I can do in this game,” Brown said. The 20-year-old from Arizona said he has no intention of transferring, regardless of how he performs in the bowl game.

Brown, in his second year at Ohio State, got on the field only sparingly this season. He was last seen when he came on as the ball-carrier in a goal-line package against Penn State on Oct. 21 and left with a sprained right ankle.

Brown will be face another quarterback competition in spring practice against Lincoln Kienholz, one of the top quarterback prospects in the 2023 class, and five-star prospect Air Noland, a left-hander from Georgia, was one of the prizes of Day’s 2024 recruiting class.

Day also has the option of shopping in the transfer portal for a more experienced quarterback.

“Devin was real close going into the season, so this is going to be an awesome opportunity for him to take it and run,” Day said. “I’m excited to see that. Also Lincoln and Air, these are talented young men who want to get on the field.”

Key players from among the 14 Buckeyes who entered the portal also included running back Chip Trayanum (left for Kentucky) and receiver Julian Fleming, who was overshadowed by All-American wideout Marvin Harrison Jr., and NFL prospect Emeka Egbuka.

When McCord announced Dec. 4 he was transferring, it took most of his teammates by surprise — including Brown.

McCord had an outstanding year by the standards of most quarterbacks, throwing for 3,170 yards with 24 touchdowns. But two of his six interceptions came in the 30-24 loss to Michigan, including his last throw with under a minute left as Ohio State was driving to tie the game.

Losing to Michigan is nearly unforgivable in Columbus. Ask two-time Heisman finalist C.J. Stroud, now an NFL star. He was on the wrong end of two Michigan blowouts.

If the regular sideline exchanges during the season between a sheepish McCord and the amped-up head coach were any indication, there were issues before the Michigan game.

“I really felt bad for him,” said McCord’s friend Jack Sawyer, an Ohio State defensive end. “And I don’t think it was fair. I understand that at Ohio State, the quarterback’s expected to win games. And I don’t think at all it was his fault that we lost that game in Ann Arbor.”

Brown saw it, too.

“Kyle went through a lot,” Brown said. “And I feel for the guy. There were a lot of tough moments.”

At a news conference last Wednesday, Day declined to talk about the circumstances of McCord’s departure, saying “I don’t think it serves anybody any good.”

Asked if receiver Harrison and running back TreVeyon Henderson were going to play in the bowl game, Day said that “they’ve been out there” at practice.

Harrison, the two-time unanimous All-American and Heisman finalist, and rushing-leader Henderson are expected to enter the NFL draft, although neither has made an announcement.

Regardless of who is on the field for Ohio State, Brown is ready to prove himself.

“All year I’ve always prepared like I was the starter,” he said. “So yeah, there’s nothing to look over my shoulder for or anything. Just to go out and have fun and play my game.”